Friday 23 March 2018

Treasury Holdings to be wound up as court battle dropped

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

THE property empire built up by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett will collapse into liquidation next week, after the Treasury Holdings owners abandoned their efforts to save the business.

Among the most controversial of all the boom-time developers, Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett built on a massive scale during the property bubble.

Their Treasury venture was once valued at €4.8bn, but it now faces liquidation after being brought down by a toxic combination of collapsing property values and €2.7bn of debt.

Treasury Holdings has finally dropped its legal efforts to keep the "hopelessly insolvent" business afloat.

Having battled with NAMA, the company was finally undermined by a €70m debt to the Belgian lender KBC Bank, which went to court to have the business shut.

Grant Thornton will take on what is likely to be one of the biggest and most complicated company bankruptcies in the history of the State.

Treasury Holdings comprises dozens of separate companies with interests and assets around the world, all of which are run from a headquarters in Dublin, where around 45 staff will lose their jobs once the liquidators are appointed.

Some are likely to be hired back, at least temporarily, to help the team from Grant Thornton manage dozens of group companies and hundreds of millions of euro in property.

While Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett own the company, it has been run by former banker John Bruder since 2010.

Mr Ronan (58), in particular, is as famous for his lavish social life as for his business deals. The Tipperary-born tycoon became tabloid fodder thanks to his private jets, luxury Maybach car and well-publicised links to models Glenda Gilson and Rosanna Davison.

And his all-too-public lifestyle continued to make headlines even after his company's debts had been transferred to the taxpayer through NAMA.

His business partner Richard Barrett has kept a lower profile, but enjoyed the same vast wealth and global ambitions while the Tiger years rolled on.

Their lifestyles were fuelled by a property empire that stretched from prime Dublin offices to the London stock exchange and property-management businesses in Shanghai.


But the controversy surrounding Treasury moved from the social pages to high finance earlier this year, with the revelations that the company had sold a €20m stake in a Chinese property venture to its own bosses -- Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett -- for just €100,000 and an IOU back in 2010, despite the company's huge debts.

The men have always insisted that the deal was entirely above board, but NAMA has gone to court in an effort to get it cancelled, claiming that the sale makes it harder to recover the company's debts.

This was just one of a series of bitter legal disputes with NAMA.

But the court battles are now likely to fall by the wayside, because liquidation means Treasury is no longer in a position to decide what cases it fights.

Treasury lost control of the UK's biggest and most valuable building site at Battersea Power Station in London last year.

Irish Independent

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