Tuesday, October 9, 2012

World comes crashing down on Irish developers' global empire - The Irish Times - Sat, Oct 06, 2012


TWO OF the State’s most ambitious developers, Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett, will see the end of their globe-spanning company, Treasury Holdings, next week after conceding defeat in litigation taken by one of its banks.

Liquidators are expected to be appointed on Tuesday to the insolvent property business by the High Court after the company said it was no longer resisting an application by KBC Bank to have the company wound up over a debt of about €55 million. The rejection of a last-minute offer by US bank Morgan Stanley to buy the company’s debts from the State’s National Asset Management Agency (Nama), which supported KBC’s action, has led to the imminent failure of the group, sources close to the company said.

One of Nama’s top 10 debtors, Treasury has total debts of €2.7 billion, including more than €1 billion with the State loans agency.

Mr Barrett and Mr Ronan have given personal guarantees on a small amount of Treasury’s debts, while Mr Ronan has his own property portfolio and related debts with Nama.

Mr Barrett and Mr Ronan turned Treasury from one of the State’s biggest developers into an international business with projects in Britain, France, Sweden, Russia and China.

Treasury was behind landmark projects, including the five-star Westin and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Dublin and Wicklow, the Convention Centre in Dublin’s docklands, and the Central Park and Spencer Dock office complexes in Dublin.

The hotels and offices will remain open as they are solvent despite the pending liquidation of the parent company. The Convention Centre is owned by the State.

The High Court was told yesterday that, given Treasury’s decision not to fight the winding-up application by KBC, the bank will seek to appoint Paul McCann and Michael McAteer of accountants Grant Thornton as joint liquidators of the company and 16 related companies next week.

Lawyers for the Belgian-owned bank said the winding up of 17 companies was necessary given the scope of Treasury’s property interests.

Nama rejected an offer by Morgan Stanley to buy the group’s debts and an alternative proposal that Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett step aside to allow Treasury be sold by public tender, sources said.

The company felt it had no option but to accept the liquidation of the business as it believed Nama was unwilling to accept any scenario where Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett would remain as owners.

A spokesman for Nama said it had no comment to make.

Relations between Treasury and Nama fell apart earlier this year in a dispute over the agency’s rejection of offers to buy the group’s debts and the decision to seize properties within the group.

Treasury lost a court case in August aimed at stopping Nama.

The court was told yesterday that KBC did not accept an explanation for a transaction in which assets of a subsidiary of Treasury had been transferred to a company in the Channel Islands beneficially owned by Mr Barrett.

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