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Developer wanted to bring 'Knightsbridge' to D4

YESTERDAY'S €185m judgment against Sean Dunne is almost certainly the penultimate stage in a process which will see the property developer declared bankrupt.

There were few who flew higher than Mr Dunne. In 2005 he smashed Dublin property price records when he agreed to pay a total of almost €380m for the Jurys and Berkeley Court Hotels in Ballsbridge.

Mr Dunne is also believed to have been the buyer of Walford, the house on Shrewsbury Road which sold for a scarcely credible €58m.

The following year the 'Baron of Ballsbridge' paid €200m for the AIB head office building and the equivalent of €130m for Hume House, which bordered the Jurys' site. This brought his total investment in Ballsbridge to almost €800m, most of which was borrowed.

Mr Dunne then applied for planning permission for the site. Boasting that he was going to bring "Knightsbridge to Ballsbridge", the centrepiece of the €1bn development was to have been a 37-storey apartment building.

But long before An Bord Pleanala refused planning permission for the scheme in January 2009, it was clear that Mr Dunne's ambitious plans were dead in the water.

He first came to prominence when he successfully redeveloped the St Helen's site in the Dublin suburb of Booterstown in the early 1990s. He featured as often in the gossip columns as the business pages. When he married former 'Sunday Independent' social diarist Gayle Killilea in 2004, the wedding, Mr Dunne's second, took place off the Riviera coast on the Christina, the yacht formerly owned by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

The first sign that Mr Dunne might be losing control of his Ballsbridge empire came in February 2010 when the banks who had lent him the money to buy Jurys and the Berkeley Courtook a "substantial" stake, in the properties. Then in July of last year NAMA appointed a property receiver to a number of his assets, including Hume House. He lost his final toehold on the site in January when the banks took complete control of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court Hotels.

In the meantime, Walford was put on the market for €15m, while the family home, also on Shrewsbury Road, has been let to the South African Embassy.

Irish Independent