Tuesday 12 December 2017

Controversial developer never fails to get up the noses of his detractors

Emmet Oliver

SEAN Dunne is one of Ireland's biggest developers with the largest share of property in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, of any single landowner.

Mr Dunne is unusual in the financial crisis in that most of his loans are with foreign banks, meaning he is not a major concern of NAMA.

However, the Carlow man does have loans in NAMA, including for a building he owns in Ballsbridge called Hume House.

Mr Dunne is regarded in business as a tough negotiator and he attracted plenty of opposition to his grand schemes in Ballsbridge from financier Dermot Desmond, among others.

His plans to build the country's tallest building -- a Dubai-style office tower in the shape of a diamond -- created a tug-of-war between those who saw it as a blot on the traditional Irish architectural landscape versus those who saw it as a welcome sign of modernity.

Mr Dunne, at the peak of the Irish economy, was believed to be the 134th richest person in Ireland, but his wealth has evaporated with the onset of the property crash, while his debts have grown.

The developer has been a regular visitor to the courts over the years to settle disputes with opponents.

Mr Dunne's building company, Mountbrook, completed some very large projects during the Celtic Tiger period, including the Whitewater shopping centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and the Charles development in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

He currently owns the D4 Hotel in Ballsbridge (formerly the Berkeley Court) and has annoyed many in the hotel industry by slashing his rates in an area where prices were traditionally very high.

Mr Dunne socialises regularly at the hotel, particularly before and after rugby matches at the Aviva Stadium.

The developer has so far defied financial gravity, but with his controversial reputation, and regular interviews with overseas media outlets, he will continue to get up the nose of his detractors.

Mr Dunne is believed to be an opponent of NAMA and considered setting up a group to oppose the bad bank back in 2009, but few developers joined the group and instead the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) set up its own group.

In an interview, given to the 'International Herald Tribune' in January 2009, Mr Dunne commented: "If the banking crisis continues, I could be considered insolvent."

Irish Independent

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