Saturday 24 February 2018

Willett sells New York building for €93m

Tom Lyons

Frank Kenny's Willett Companies have sold a prestigious building in Soho, New York, for $122m (€93m) or over two-and-a-half times its original purchase price.

Dublin-born Kenny sold the mixed property – which houses fashion brands Diesel and Burberry – to SL Greene Realty Corp, the biggest owner of office towers in Manhattan.

Willett's American and Irish investors made a substantial profit on the sale of the building, which was bought for $46m six years ago. Irish investors in the building on 131-137 Spring Street in Soho were assembled by Warren Private, the Dublin-based financial advisers. Willett added value to the property, which was sold on a yield of 3 per cent, via gradual rent increases and refurbishing its upper residential floors.

"We were reluctant to sell but we got an offer we couldn't refuse," Kenny said. He added that bidding was triggered by an unsolicited offer.

Kenny moved to America in 1983 where he worked initially for Irish builders the Durkan Brothers. He went out on his own in 1989 with the help of his friend Christopher Bennett of Bennett Construction. He founded Willett in the early Nineties and gradually built up its property portfolio to a current value of between $750m and $1bn.

Kenny runs the business with his long-time chief financial officer Bruce Beswick. The company's portfolio spans 2m sq ft with its assets primarily in New York, Washington DC and Connecticut. Beswick is a former managing director at Bankers Trust Company.

Kenny said Willett was now looking at investing in Ireland. "We are looking at Dublin. There is an opportunity for patient money there," he said. Willett is a long-term property investor and usually looks for multi-tenant assets which it retains for a period of seven to 10 years.

Sunday Indo Business

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