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Rocca estate faces €102m mortgage bill

THE estate of the late Patrick Rocca has just five months to sell a London office block before a €102m mortgage owed on the property falls due for full repayment.

Lloyds Chambers -- which Mr Rocca purchased for €116m at the height of the property boom in 2007 -- was put on the market last week with an asking price of €105m, which will just about cover bank loans of €101.9m on the building that must be repaid by this October.

In a note to the latest annual accounts for Lloyds Chamber Property Ltd, auditors for the company for which Annette Rocca -- the widow of the tragic tycoon who took his own life in 2009 -- serves as sole director, outline the necessity to sell the 18,000sqm property.

"The company would be unable to repay the group loan without disposing of its investment property. As at the date of this report [January 24, 2011], the group has been unable to extend or refinance the underlying bank loan," the auditors state.

A closer examination of the company's accounts shows a steady decline in the value of the Portsoken Street property since its acquisition by Mr Rocca in 2007.

While the building was given a valuation of €117m that year, by 2010 its value had slumped to to €108m. The current asking price of €105m would appear to reflect both the realities of a London property market that is only now in the tentative stages of recovery and the urgent requirement of the Rocca estate to achieve a sale.

This urgency is borne out further with a statement noting that Annette Rocca considers its "results and financial position" to be "less than satisfactory".

Elsewhere, the accounts note Ms Rocca's salary for 2009 and 2010 as €202,840 and €169,000 respectively.

But whatever about the precarious financial position of Lloyds Chambers Property Ltd, prospective purchasers of Lloyds Chambers itself could yet secure a welcome financial return from the building that occupies a prime position in London's E1 office district. At present, the premises are let to global insurance giant Aon at a rent of €8m per annum.

The existing lease agreement runs up until June 24, 2018, according to the company's accounts.

Before his death in 2009, Mr Rocca had been widely held to be one of Ireland's most successful businessmen and property investors with a hugely valuable investment portfolio both here and in the UK. Mr Rocca even counted Bill Clinton among his many friends, famously lending the former US President his helicopter when he came to Ireland to play golf.

The close bond between the two was captured in an emotional speech Mr Clinton made in March of this year, in which he reflected on the human impact of the Irish economic crisis, saying: "The thing that has troubled me most, believe it or not, about this whole economic crisis in Ireland has been the rise in the suicide rate -- not just among the young where it was already too high, but among people in their prime working years who felt somehow their lives have been robbed from them by this.

"A good friend of mine was one of those young, phenomenally prosperous Irish men who took his life when this happened and it made me think about this all over again."

Sunday Independent