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Nick Webb: Noel Smyth returns to a €220m land deal


FRIENDS AGAIN?: The photo from the meeting between Richie Boucher, Jim Brown, Jeremy Masding and the Law Society published in the Law society’s ‘Gazette’ magazine

FRIENDS AGAIN?: The photo from the meeting between Richie Boucher, Jim Brown, Jeremy Masding and the Law Society published in the Law society’s ‘Gazette’ magazine

FRIENDS AGAIN?: The photo from the meeting between Richie Boucher, Jim Brown, Jeremy Masding and the Law Society published in the Law society’s ‘Gazette’ magazine

The wheel turns full circle. Noel Smyth, Ben Dunne's solicitor turned property investor, is putting together a bid for the €220m Cherrywood Business Park, 12 years after losing control of the land to Liam Carroll. It is understood that Smyth, who is being advised by Lazard, has wrangled together a group of non Irish investors, to bankroll a bid.

Smyth drove the development of the Cherrywood Science and Technology Park during his time as chairman of listed property firm Dunloe Ewart. However in 2002, Liam Carroll took control of Dunloe following one of the most bitter takeover battles of the decade. The reclusive Carroll bought out shareholders including Dermot Desmond, Pascal Taggart and Phil Monahan. Smyth exited Dunloe with a grim expression and around €47m for his shares. The property company's principal assets were a 50pc stake in the 400 acre Cherrywood site as well as a chunk of prime docklands land. Development was kyboshed by the downturn.

Savills is now guiding about €220m for the Cherrywood park and the adjoining 400 acres of strategic zoned development land, which has been described - in classic estate agent puff - as one of the biggest one-off development opportunities to come to market in years. It is being sold by Grant Thornton, which was appointed receivers by a consortia of banks led by Danske, Bank of Scotland (Ireland), AIB, as well as Nama. My understanding is that Smyth is looking at developing the land and believes that up to 3,000 houses could be built on the site. The proposed scheme, which includes a town centre, retail facilities, offices and mixed housing could be worth up to €2.5bn. Deep pockets will be needed to develop the project.


When  Richie, Jim and Jeremy dined with the lawyers in the sun

The bankers are trying to mend fences. "An unprecedented meeting" between Bank of Ireland boss Richie Boucher, Ulster Bank's Jim Brown, the Permo's Jeremy Masding and Law Society bods including director general Ken Murphy took place in late June. The sunny Blackhall Place dinner was aimed at "resetting" relations between the bankers and the legal professional that made so much money from the banks during the boom. Relations became considerably more frosty with the likes of jailed solicitor Thomas Byrne making headlines. There was also the uncomfortable situation where the banks unleashed their own lawyers on several law firms relating to duff property deals. Just as horrible was the fact that the banks put in receivers into some high-profile solicitors' investments.

AIB's David Duffy "was prevented by an emergency board meeting from attending the meeting," according to the latest Law Society Gazette. He subsequently attended "a lunch" at Blackhall Place and was "equally enthusiastic that the long-standing issues between the Irish Banking Federation and various Law Society Committees be reviewed afresh and resolved, if at all possible." The increasing chumminess between the banks and the legal community are another sign of recovery. Next they'll be shovelling money at them for investments again. Bulgarian apartments anyone?


Katie Taylor in the ring with 'The Heat' after Glanbia deal

Things are going to get very crowded in the Glanbia stable after chief executive Siobhan Talbot dropped $153m to buy US sports nutrition group Isopure last week. Glanbia is ramping up its presence in the sector, with its products and brands used to bulk up by bodybuilders and sports stars. It was pipped by rival Hormel Foods in the long running battle to buy the €360m Muscle Milk brand last month. The deal for Isopure brings new products to the Kilkenny headquartered food company but it also brings some big names sports stars into the portfolio.

Isopure is one of the backers of Irish American boxer Heather "The Heat" Hardy, who takes to the ring with Irish green, white and orange colours on the trim of her kit. "I'm in Gerritsen Beach," she said. "It's a small Irish community off Jamaica bay in Brooklyn. We all have much the same story - I'm just a single mom fighting to make a life," she said last year. The Brooklyn born boxer has quite a back story, which saw her lose her home to a fire and then being left homeless again after Hurricane Sandy. The unbeaten superbantamweight prospect signed a professional contract last year and in June flattened rival Jackie Trivilino in New York's Barclay centre.

The arrival of "The heat" into the Glanbia fold is even more interesting as the Kilkenny firm signed up Irish Olympian Katie Taylor to become an ambassador for the Elite LifeSize dog food range. Not one but two of the highest profile Irish and Irish American women boxers. Dream team or what?


Boylesports boss lands a gamble but loses another

John Boyle's Boylesports has inked the biggest sponsorship deal in racing, he told me last week. "I feel really privileged to be able to be in a position to sponsor the Boylesports Irish Grand National and the Boylesports.com Irish Greyhound Derby. Indeed Boylesports has been and always will be a great supporter of not only Irish Racing whether it's horses or dogs, but Irish Sport in general," he said after sealing the deal. Boyle has always had an eye for a high profile sponsorship, having spent close to €10m becoming the sponsor of Premiership football club Sunderland in 2007.

While the horses are a big part of the fast growing bookie business, Boyle is more of a greyhound man himself. It hasn't been a good year on the track for him personally though. It's been borderline catastrophic. His own dog Boylesports Hero, which won both the Kirby Memorial and the Red Mills Produce Stake, was a smoking hot prospect for the Derby but was withdrawn in the first round with a broken leg. Insiders suggest that Boylesports Hero was a nailed on cert for some heavy silverware. Gutted in not the word. "To be honest I was devastated," Boyle told me. "He's been a superb dog to have been associated with and now will enjoy his retirement to stud. I genuinely believe he could have gone a long way in this years Derby but it wasn't meant to be."

Sunday Indo Business