Saturday 21 April 2018

Dunne jets in as his wife takes control of second property firm

Companies set up in name of developer

Sean Dunne arriving at Dublin Airport yesterday on a business trip
Sean Dunne arriving at Dublin Airport yesterday on a business trip
Sean Dunne's wife Gayle has set herself up as a property developer in the US

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A SECOND American property company launched by heavily indebted developer Sean Dunne has been transferred into his wife's name, the Irish Independent has learned.

Former gossip columnist Gayle Dunne (36) now controls two separate US real estate firms which were initially set up in her husband's name last year.

Details of the latest transfer emerged yesterday as Mr Dunne (56) flew in to Dublin on an Aer Lingus flight from New York on business. Arriving into the city's airport at 8am, the developer looked fresh-faced and smart in a purple scarf and dark grey overcoat.

Despite the huge debts being nursed by Mr Dunne's companies, the couple relocated to a rented mansion in the millionaires' enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut, last year.

Mrs Dunne subsequently set herself up as a property developer and began scouting for land deals.

It had previously been known that Mountbrook USA LLC, a real estate firm set up in Mr Dunne's name last May, was later transferred into his wife's name.

Now documents filed with the Secretary of State's office in Hartford, Connecticut, reveal that a second firm, Molly Blossom LLC, was also transferred into Mrs Dunne's name.

The records -- seen by the Irish Independent -- state that Mr Dunne's name was listed in error on the initial articles of organisation.

Assets

They also backdate Mrs Dunne's involvement in the firm to April 29 last year. The records list the address for both firms as a suite on the 57th floor of the Empire State building in New York.

It is unclear whether Mrs Dunne has benefitted financially from the company transfers. Although both companies are vehicles for property acquisitions, it is not known what assets, if any, they hold. Both companies have yet to file any accounts.

Mr Dunne is currently dealing with NAMA and also has massive debts with non-NAMA banks following his acquisition of the Jurys and Berkeley Court Hotels in Ballsbridge, Dublin, for €379m in 2005.

He was dubbed the Baron of Ballsbridge after the deal, but was unable to get planning permission for ambitious plans to build a Knightsbridge-like development on the hotel sites,

The value of the properties has since plummeted.

The Carlow-born developer previously transferred his interest in a valuable landbank on the Goatstown Road in south Dublin to his wife in December 2008, a year before NAMA was set up. He has denied owning any property in the US.

However, it emerged in court papers that his wife had been eyeing up potential property deals, including one in Chicago.

Mrs Dunne has also been linked to the redevelopment of 38 Bush Avenue, a $2m (€1.5m) house in Greenwich, which is at the centre of a planning dispute. Although the ownership of the property is hidden by a trust, Mrs Dunne lists it as her home address in company filings.

Planning authorities are to meet later this month to decide on the fate of the controversial redevelopment, which has been dogged by objections from local residents. Claims by locals that too much of the existing structure had been demolished led planning authorities to issue a 'stop work' notice last October.

Officials said yesterday they would now meet to discuss the future of the project on February 23. It is unclear how Mrs Dunne, a former socialite and journalist, is funding her foray into the US property market, although court documents do reveal she has an investment portfolio which she states is performing well.

She is currently suing a New York lawyer over $500,000 (€364,000) she claims he swindled from her.

Mrs Dunne has declined to comment to the media about her new career.

In a recent statement she said her personal or financial affairs in the US were not a matter of public interest.

She also stated she was not indebted to any financial institution covered by the bank guarantee and also that she had no NAMA loans.

Irish Independent

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