Thursday 23 January 2020

NYC high-flyer Smyth crashes down to earth

RONALD QUINLAN

AT the height of the boom and at the height of his financial powers, he managed to amass a property portfolio that included the Argentinian embassy in Ballsbridge and buildings on Leeson Street, Adelaide Road and Duke Street in Dublin city centre with barely a mention of his name being made in the press.

Indeed, in 2007 Liam Smyth appeared to be on top of the world when he took ownership of the entire penthouse floor of one of New York's finest residential buildings, snapping up all six apartments at the Centria on West 48th Street in Manhattan.

Just over four years later, the low-profile investor has, like so many others who put their money into bricks and mortar at the wrong time, been brought crashing back down to earth.

Last week, Mr Smyth's four penthouses at the Centria, which is located directly opposite the famous Rockefeller Centre, were back on the market with an optimistic asking price of €5.58m ($7.4m), or some €290,000 ($400,000) more than the €5.29m ($7m) they were valued at collectively in 2007.

Spread across 3,791 square feet on the building's 35th floor, Mr Smyth's Manhattan pads consist of 14 rooms in total and enjoy what estate agents Stribling describe as "the most breathtaking views imaginable in every direction, including St Patrick's Cathedral, the Hudson and East Rivers, Times Square, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Plaza".

Closer to home, Mr Smyth has been under significant financial pressure from Anglo Irish Bank since March 2010 in relation to the repayment of loans he took out during the boom years.

That pressure came to a head last March when the bank now known as the IBRC (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) secured court orders entitling it to recover some €28m against Mr Smyth arising from unpaid property loans and guarantees.

The case related to loan facilities of some €17m in 2007 and 2009 provided by the bank to renew existing loan facilities and to fund investment in a property fund.

Mr Smyth had also personally guaranteed the obligations of his company, Sanguinis. Anglo claimed that Mr Smyth owed it some €10.8m as a result of the guarantees he had given to the company which owned the freehold on the Ashbourne House Hotel in County Meath.

In pressing its case against Mr Smyth, the bank said there had been default under the agreements and that it had engaged in numerous discussions with the businessman and his advisers in relation to the repayment of the loans.

Notwithstanding these negotiations and undertakings given by Mr Smyth, Anglo claimed no adequate repayment proposals had been forthcoming. The bank exercised its entitlement in January of last year to demand the immediate repayment of €17.3m arising from loan agreements from 2007 and 2009 once they had expired. They also demanded the repayment of €10.8m arising from the guarantees Mr Smyth had provided to them.

Sunday Independent

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