Saturday 24 February 2018

Calls for a 'cooling off period' for Nama staff

Serious concerns: Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath
Serious concerns: Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

A MOVE by one of Nama's most senior asset managers to US property-investment giant Kennedy Wilson has led to renewed calls for a "cooling off period" for employees who leave the State's toxic loan agency to take up positions in the private sector.

Ali Rohan has joined the growing number of Nama executives who are leaving the State agency for positions in the private commercial-property sector.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath last night expressed his "serious concern" about the number of senior executives, who are now leaving the agency.

Mr McGrath told the Sunday Independent: "There are people holding senior positions in Nama moving into the private sector seamlessly to positions which certainly have a cultural relationship with Nama.

"It's understandable that there would be mobility between Nama and the private sector, but I think that given the vast scale of Nama's work and its importance to the economy, it's essential that there would be a cooling off period for people holding senior positions."

During her time at Nama, Ms Rohan worked on the management of Sean Mulryan's Ballymore loan book. In joining the ranks of Kennedy Wilson, she will be tasked with assisting the Beverly Hills company with the management of its newly-acquired Irish commercial- property portfolio which includes, amongst other assets, the Stillorgan shopping centre formerly owned by Treasury Holdings and the Clancy Quay apartment complex near Dublin's Phoenix Park. The company has recently invested some €306m in Irish property.

While Ms Rohan will, of course, be personally precluded from having any business dealings with her former employers at Nama, Kennedy Wilson itself would appear to be forging an effective working relationship with the agency.

Indeed, the US property giant only recently filed a draft proposal for the development of five acres of land in Dublin's Docklands for which it said it had collaborated with Nama in its "effort and inputs in devising an acceptable and viable scheme for their combined land holdings" in the area. The land includes the site where there had been a proposal prior to the 2008 crash for the construction of the so-called U2 Tower.

Among the parties involved in Geranger Ltd, the consortium behind that plan, were Sean Mulryan's Ballymore, Belfast-born property investor Paddy McKillen and members of U2 itself.

Ms Rohan's exit from Nama is just the latest in a long line of high-profile departures from the agency in the past 12 months.

Only last April, senior asset recovery manager Paul Hennigan left Nama to take up a position with Prime London Partners in the UK. Prior to his departure, Mr Hennigan had been responsible for the management and disposal strategy for Ireland's former property Midas, Derek Quinlan, amongst others.

Two months previously, Nama lost the services of portfolio manager Kevin Nowlan, when he decided to return to his family firm, WK Nowlan, to take up the role of CEO. WK Nowlan is currently in the process of establishing a €300m Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with the US-based Willett Companies, founded by Irish-born businessman Frank Kenny.

Prior to their companies' coming together, Mr Kenny had told the Sunday Independent of his firm's interest in investing in Ireland, saying: "We are looking at Dublin. There is an opportunity for patient money there."

Mr McGrath said he has tried to raise the issue of the high number of officials quitting the agency with Finance Minister Michael Noonan, under whose direction Nama is obliged to operate.

"This has been raised with the Finance Minister for quite some period of time now and he just seems to be passing the buck to Nama saying they are conducting a review. In my view, the minister should take a far more direct approach," he added.

Sunday Independent

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