RUSSIA's richest woman has sealed a deal to buy Dublin's Morrison from NAMA for more than €20m.
The Morrison's new owner, Elena Baturina (48), is a self-made billionaire who began life as a factory worker and went on to amass a $2.9bn (€2.2bn) fortune with her construction giant Inteko.
The price for the hotel is within the "€20m to €25m" range NAMA had been hoping for -- but the taxpayer may still have made a loss on the deal since it is not known how big the original Morrison loan was or how much NAMA paid for it.
A spokesman for NAMA last night declined to comment on any aspect of the deal, which was agreed in recent days.
NAMA typically does not say how much it pays for developers' loans, since such information is deemed "commercially sensitive".
Dubbed one of the capital's first 'designer hotels', the Morrison, on Ormond Quay, burst on to the Dublin scene in 1999 under the patronage of Hugh O'Regan, who was already a millionaire and went on to become one of Ireland's biggest hospitality names with the Thomas Read group of pubs.
He later became one of the first casualties of the crash when a liquidator was appointed to his empire in the summer of 2009 -- a development Mr O'Regan later said almost pushed him to a breakdown.
At the time, his companies owed €80m to Anglo Irish Bank, plus another €180m to Irish Nationwide, which had loaned him money for the redevelopment of the Kilternan Hotel & Country Club in Co Dublin.
The size of the lending for the Morrison has never been revealed, although Mr O'Regan did spend €16m on redevelopment work around 2003 and may have borrowed for that.
At one point, Anglo had a mortgage of €41.5m on the hotel. This may have included money loaned to Mr O'Regan for other projects but secured against the hotel.
Ms Baturina's success has been steeped in controversy back home, amid allegations that her husband's former role as mayor of Moscow helped her build her fortune through lucrative contracts.
Her husband, Yury Luzhkov, insisted that he had done nothing wrong but was fired in September 2010 and sent his teenage daughters to live in London, claiming that they were no longer safe in Russia.
More recently, Ms Baturina hit the headlines in the UK when the 'Sunday Times' apologised to her in court for a story it had written in 2009, claiming she had forked out £50m (€60m) for a London mansion.
"I was astonished that an obvious lie about me could be printed by a British newspaper," she said at the time. Ms Baturina is now reportedly living in London.
She has a number of other hotel interests. Sources last night said the deal was "good news" for the Morrison as it gave it a long-term future and removed the uncertainty of being associated with NAMA.