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Tuesday 13 November 2018

Bankruptcy fear as Dunne must repay NAMA €185m

Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle arriving at Croke Park for a rugby international against
England in February 2009
Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle arriving at Croke Park for a rugby international against England in February 2009

Dearbhail McDonald and Donal O'Donovan

DEVELOPER Sean Dunne, the so-called 'Baron of Ballsbridge', is facing the prospect of bankruptcy after he agreed to court orders directing him to repay more than €185m to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

The toxic loans agency was given permission by the courts to enforce the order if needs be, placing Mr Dunne's personal assets including any homes he owns, at risk if he cannot repay the debt.

The bad bank will now conduct a trawl to see if any of his assets are debt free and will examine any asset transfers in the past five years.

Mr Dunne could also be called in to court to be quizzed about his financial affairs.

But with the developer now living in Connecticut in America -- where people can emerge from bankruptcy within a year -- NAMA could end up being forced to chase its debts across the Atlantic if Mr Dunne files for bankruptcy there.

NAMA faces an uphill task to recover its debt -- receivers have only been able to recover €25,000 after taking control of properties worth hundreds of millions last July.

It has emerged that NAMA queried the developer's "asset position" and that of people connected to him as part of its dealings with Mr Dunne before it informed him, in July 2011, that it would bring legal action to enforce the debt.

Mr Dunne was told in March 2011 that the agency had dismissed, as "unacceptable", a revised business plan submitted by the Carlow-born builder.

His High Court capitulation comes weeks after he lost control of the Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels in Ballsbridge.

Mr Dunne had paid €400m to acquire the landmark sites, but lost control of his D4 dream after a syndicate of lenders led by Ulster Bank brought legal action to repossess them.

The case was settled last January after he ceded possession of the hotels and the lenders appointed Dalata Hotel Group to manage them.

He initially made his fortune in house building.

His biggest deal was €369m spent buying the Jurys and Berkeley Court hotel sites in Ballsbridge, with plans for a massive commercial and apartment tower complex on the site.

It never happened.

Mr Dunne also paid €200m for part of AIB's headquarters in the same area and €130m in cash, plus a building site, for the nearby Hume House.

Much of the property empire has already been taken over by NAMA and the other lenders that fuelled the property splurge.

And court papers reveal that Mr Dunne was engaged in a frantic refinancing spree with several state-guaranteed banks in the summer of 2009.

Guarantees

Nine separate loan facilities at issue were made by Bank of Ireland, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Allied Irish Banks from 2005 onwards to Mr Dunne personally and to various companies. Mr Dunne had provided guarantees on loans to various Mountbrook Companies, the Riverside 4 Development and DCD Builders.

Mr Dunne, who did not attend the High Court for yesterday's brief hearing, did not comment when his representatives were contacted by the Irish Independent last night.

Among the assets over which receivers have been appointed are Hume House, Pembroke Road, Dublin; penthouse apartments at Mountbrook, Mount Merrion, Dublin; apartments at Hollybrook, Brighton Road, Foxrock, Dublin; apartments at Gateway Place and Gateway Crescent, Ballymun, Dublin; and properties at North Wall Quay, Dublin and Riverside IV, Grand Canal Docks, Dublin.

The judgment sum is made up of about €32m concerning personal loans to Mr Dunne, while the remainder arises from guarantees provided by him over other loans.

Irish Independent

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