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Smurfit buys out Gannon's 49pc stake in K Club for €40m

MICHAEL SMURFIT is back in control of the K Club after completing a €40m deal to buy 49pc of the high end golf club, a source close to the Smurfit boss said.

The former head of the Smurfit Kappa packaging empire said yesterday he's now the sole owner of the Co Kildare hotel, golf club and luxury resort. Mr Smurfit upped his share to 100pc after buying out developer Gerry Gannon, his long-term partner in the business.

The deal was "facilitated" by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). The stake was first put on the market two years ago for €60m.

Cash from the Smurfit deal will go straight to NAMA to repay some of the approximately €1bn that Mr Gannon -- one of the country's biggest house builders -- owes to the "bad bank".

The latest deal values the K Club at around €80m. It is well down from the €115m Mr Gannon and Mr Smurfit paid when they bought the club back in 2005, but that deal included a large site in Dublin.

The pair are also believed to have sold more than €150m worth of houses and apartments on the grounds of the resort.

Mr Smurfit was the original founder of the K Club back in 1991. As the economy boomed it became the epitome of Celtic Tiger chic with membership costs soaring to €88,000.

Mr Smurfit teamed up with Mr Gannon to buy the resort in 2005 from a group of US investment firms which ended up owning the business after buying Mr Smurfit's packaging empire -- Jefferson Smurfit.

Now Mr Smurfit is back in sole charge of the club, after nearly a year of negotiations.

It means the K Club can also emerge from the shadow of NAMA.

A spokesman for Mr Smurfit said last night that NAMA now has "no loans or other involvement with the Kildare Hotel, Spa and Country Club".

Despite its undoubted social cache, the K Club has struggled in recent years, with losses of €2.5m in its last financial year.

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