Saturday 16 December 2017

Dunne's '€75m in a suitcase' estate up for sale at €2.25m

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

THE Dublin mansion and estate at the centre of Sean Dunne's recent "€75m in a suitcase" payment claim, has just been placed on the market for €2.25m on the instructions of Nama.

Woodtown Manor in Rathfarnham, which was bought by Sean Dunne for €1.4m in 1997 on 131 acres recently became the focus of creditor and Nama scrutiny after Mr Dunne – who has debts of €691m – claimed last month that he received a €75m payment for a chunk of the original Woodtown lands in 2006/2007 in "hard cash brought in a suitcase and put on the table."

The house and estate became the centre of Mr Dunne's failed plan for a 98 bedroom hotel, conference and leisure centre in 2004 and the house was later left to fall into a precarious condition following Mr Dunne's departure from Ireland.

The estate is located above the South Dublin Council 120 metre line set by the local authority to prevent development in the Dublin mountains and when Mr Dunne's hotel permission expired in 2004, he had trouble getting it renewed. He soon came back with a second plan for a 100 home retirement scheme which again failed to obtain permission.

But time ran out for Mr Dunne at Woodtown when the property crash collapsed his vast property empire (he was once estimated to be worth between €500m and €700m). The broke developer, once labelled "The Baron of Ballsbridge" had become known for property buying largesse, having previously given his wife Gayle €60m to buy Walford on Shrewsbury Road as part of an agreement to present her with €100m to ensure her financial independence in return for "her love and affection."

Soon after the collapse of Mr Dunne's empire, the property came under the control of Nama which is now instructing the sale. The estate agents Colliers International expect that the 18th Century Manor House and the remaining 131 acres, will be acquired by a "wealthy individual seeking the privacy and expanses of a pocket city estate who is willing to invest in restoring and living in the house in the short term with perhaps a long term eye on its development prospects."

The house will require between €250,000 and €800,000 spent on it depending on the quality of fit out required by a new owner. The work is necessary because, like many big historic properties acquired by developers and then left stranded, it had been allowed to fall into disrepair and had suffered some vandalism and weather damage. At one point a fire had broken out inside the property.

Since taking control, Nama has spent money making the house weathertight. The house has recently been reroofed and all the windows were replaced.

The Manor is a seven bay two storey residence with the three central bays that form the oldest part of the house likely to date from the early 18th Century – as evidenced by it's "mean" narrow main entrance door. Two more bay extensions were added in the 1830's on either side of the central block and the main reception has a large bay window looking right down over Dublin.

Much of the original development of the house was carried out by influential past resident George Grierson who inherited the position of Kings Printer for Ireland from his Scottish born father. For the Griersons this was a licence to print money – he had exclusive dibs on all Government documents as well as the King James bible. When Grierson junior was "made redundant" in 1800 following the Act of Union he received compensation of £14,000 - equating to around €1.3m in today's terms and bought Woodtown to indulge his big passion for farming and prize cattle.

Inside the house stretches to 3,550 sq ft, or three times the size of an average family home and contains three main reception rooms, a very large kitchen and store rooms on the ground floor and five bedrooms on the first floor.

Also included in the sale is Woodtown Lodge, a detached red brick bungalow which is now in a poor state of repair. This is located at the east side of the main residence and near to the farm yard which contains a range of dated farm buildings, barns and stables.

Aside from being offered in its entirety, a purchaser can also consider two other options – lands of 42 acres without the house and Woodtown Manor and 89.4 acres which includes the formal gardens and the second residence.

  • For further details contact Colliers International (01-6333700).

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