Sunday 21 January 2018

€380m site deal epitomised lofty ambitions

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

PROFILE sean dunne

NO one epitomises the boom and bust better than bankrupt developer Sean Dunne.

The Carlow-born businessman enjoyed a high profile during the Celtic Tiger, regularly appearing on the social scene and in the infamous Fianna Fail tent at the Galway Races.

And when he married former journalist Gayle Killilea in 2004, the reception was held in an opulent 17th-century Italian villa before a 14-day celebration aboard the 'Cristina O', a luxury yacht formerly owned by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

It was a long way from his humble beginnings in Tullow, Co Carlow. A quantity surveyor by trade, the 59-year old started his career building family homes but from the late 1990s had moved into the big league.

Among the high-profile acquisitions over his career include Woodtown Manor in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, which he purchased for €1.4m in 1997, Hume House in Ballsbridge, the AIB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge, the Zed Candy factory site in Kilcock and the Blood Stone Building in the Docklands.

His wife also purchased Ireland's most expensive house, 'Walford' on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road in 2005, for €58m. It was taken off the market earlier this year after failing to sell for €15m. But it was his purchase of the 2.8 hectare (seven acre) Jurys/Berkeley Court hotel complex in Dublin 4 which propelled him into the public consciousness.

In 2005, he spent a staggering €380m for the site – a record price paid for land – which is now worth a fraction of that.

His ambitious plans including razing the hotels and investing €1.5bn in 10 new buildings, including one 37 storeys high, comprising 536 apartments, a hotel, retail and office spaces.

In January 2009, the plan was rejected by An Bord Pleanala. Mr Dunne later received permission for a scaled-down version.

In 2009, he gave an infamous interview to 'The New York Times' late at night in Doheny and Nesbitt's pub, where he said if the banking crisis continued "I could be considered insolvent".

That day has come to pass. Not only has the High Court declared him bankrupt, a decision which can be appealed, he is also seeking bankruptcy in the US, where he currently lives.

The businessman has stated that he had paid more than €350m in taxes to the Exchequer and considered his "debt to the Irish state to be cleared".

Irish Independent

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