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Burlington on block for fraction of boom price

THE future of the iconic Burlington Hotel that cost Bernard McNamara €288m during the boom was the subject of speculation last week, with industry sources claiming that offers have been made to buy it for a fraction of its previous sale price.

Industry sources said three offers had been made for the Dublin hotel, with one of those thought to be an overseas buyer. The sums on the table are thought to be a fraction of its boom price, with one offer put at €44m.

Mr McNamara, who admitted last year that he was "broke" and that his companies owe up to €2bn, controls the company behind the Burlington Hotel.

A main stakeholder is Bank of Scotland, which financed the McNamara purchase of the hotel. The deal was one of McNamara's biggest when he bought it from the Doyle family which was led by Bernie Doyle, the younger daughter of the hotel chain's founder PV Doyle.

Ms Doyle, who is married to millionaire businessman John Gallagher, is chairwoman of the Doyle Collection, a boutique range of hotels which includes the Westbury in central Dublin. She also led negotiations to sell the family hotels Jury's and the Berkeley Court in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, at the height of the boom to another developer -- Sean Dunne -- for €375m.

Rumours that talks included a potential buyback of the Burlington by the Doyle interests were denied by a spokesperson this weekend.

In addition to buying the Burlington, Mr McNamara bought an adjoining site from insurer Allianz and won planning permission to develop the sites.

His plans were stalled by the property slump and the hotel was reopened and is trading successfully.

Meanwhile, last week heard a Celtic Tiger miaow that was in sharp contrast to its former roar, writes James Gibbons. Thursday marked the end of an era in Ballsbridge when the Four Seasons Hotel quietly changed hands at midnight without fanfare. It was markedly different from the pomp and ceremony of February 2001. The US-based Livingston Group officially took over from the Nollaig Syndicate at the stroke of midnight. There were only a handful of patrons in the hotel's lobby lounge and they were asked quietly to settle their bills before midnight.

It was explained to them that the hotel was changing hands at midnight and the accounts had to be settled by then. A member of staff explained that both the staff and management of the hotel remain the same, with only the ownership of the building changing.

It was Derek Quinlan who established the Nollaig Partnership in 1997 to finance the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge. This venture included such names as former AIB group chairman Dermot Gleeson, Supreme Court judge Fidelma Macken, former chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Lar Bradshaw, developers David Arnold and John McCormack and hotelier Francis Brennan of the Park in Kenmare.

The Nollaig Syndicate had appointed property consultants CBRE to seek buyers and earlier this month it accepted an offer from the Livingston Group. The Four Seasons is booked out this week with the Horse Show which is taking place next door in the RDS.

Sunday Independent