Thursday 18 January 2018

Samantha McCaughren: Sting in the tale in Ryan and Campion's planning row

Former Enterprise Minister Mary Harney with Miriam O’Callaghan
Former Enterprise Minister Mary Harney with Miriam O’Callaghan
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

For every story, there's a backstory, right? That certainly seems to be the case for a planning dispute between high-flyer Declan Ryan and property consultant Tadhg Campion over a mews which backs on to Ryan's new period home at number 9 Harcourt Terrace - a protected structure formerly owned by art auctioneer John De Vere White.

Readers will recall from last week's Ergo dispatch that the rear mews owned by Campion has been used as an office for more than 12 years. Now I hear that shortly after Ryan (son of Ryanair founder Tony Ryan) bought the house in the heart of Dublin's Georgian conservation area, Campion was invited through an estate agent to sell his mews to Ryan. Asked for a price, Campion gave one, but heard nothing more until April 2016 when he received a letter from a solicitor representing Ryan inquiring if he was "open to an offer being made" and inviting Campion to "kindly" contact the lawyer if he was open to entering into sale negotiations.

So far, so neighbourly - but there was a sting. The legal letter also stated that it had come to its client's (Ryan's) attention that the mews was being used as an office, despite a condition in its planning permission that it be used as a single dwelling.

When no sale proceeded, matters got somewhat more heated and Dublin City Council issued a warning about the status of the mews, with Campion duly securing permission last month for retention of change of use. Now Ryan has lodged an objection to An Bord Pleanala, his consultants Marston stating that the change to office use would have a negative impact on the architectural character and setting in the heart of a unique area etc.

Ryan has planted trees to protect the privacy of his property which, as it happens, is also directly overlooked by the occupants of 21 Charlemont, Ken Rohan's landmark six-storey Schudo facade office block.

It's certainly not the first war of words to break out among neighbours on Harcourt Terrace, which has been home to a dizzying array of planning disputes throughout its illustrious history. But it will be interesting to see how this riveting story ends.

Landy back at struggling Zamano after brief hiatus

I see that former Zamano boss Pat Landy is rejoining the company’s board, after stepping down as a director just six months ago. He’d left the chief executive role in January 2014.

Landy is replacing Fergal Scully of Heritage Capital who did a stint of a little over a year.

A takeover offer was made a couple of years ago but the parties couldn’t agree on price and since then it’s been a rough ride. In October 2015 the shares were worth more than 12c, now they’re worth less than 5c.

The Irish-listed company is little more than a cash shell these days after regulatory changes led it to wind down its lines of business. Among its specialities were payments made via text message and marketing via text message.

Now it’s focused on what to do next, telling the market that it is considering alternative strategic options, with some €7m in cash in the bank. If Landy and co can’t conclude a transformative acquisition or reverse takeover, we’ll probably see a distribution to shareholders.

There’s a rather big deal afoot in

Athlone. The Nasdaq-listed Innocoll, an Irish-headquartered pharma, has agreed to sell the company to a Massachusetts healthcare-investment fund called Gurnet Point for a maximum consideration of around $209m.

Innocoll wants to bring a product called Xaracoll through the regulatory process, pitching it as a treatment for post-operative pain.

It received a major setback last year when the US Food and Drug Administration rebuffed an application to have the product approved, saying it needed more information.

That sparked fears that Innocoll could run out of cash, but now Gurnet Point has arrived to save the day.

Gurnet Point plans to take the company private and inject “substantial additional capital” to bring the Xaracoll process forward.

With plastics company Athlone Extrusions also up for sale at the moment, there’s lots of  corporate activity in the midlands town just now.

Fox joins Feeney-backed Neuropath Therapeutics

Another former boss of an Irish plc has popped up at Neuropath Therapeutics, a low-profile startup that was one of the last recipients of funding from Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies.

John Fox, who used to run Merrion Pharmaceuticals, has joined the company as a director. His expertise will hopefully help Neuropath achieve its goal of developing novel treatments for disorders of the central nervous system. The company got $2.5m from Atlantic in October of last year. Let’s hope its future is brighter than that of Merrion, which was wound up by shareholders after failing to do a deal to develop its pharmaceutical prospects.

It had been working with US bank Ladenburg Thalmann to try and find partners and a number of prospects got to the due-diligence phase.

Eventually, the company was forced to sell intellectual property assets in order to pay off a loan due to Declan Ryan’s Irelandia.

Will Neuropath be a high-flyer like Ryan?

Sunday Indo Business

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