Clerys store could have been 'Bloomingdales of Dublin' - developer
Clerys could have become the Bloomingdales of Dublin and kept its workforce according, to a buyer who was out-bid by new owners Natrium.
Developer Paddy McKillen was one of the underbidders for Clerys but was beaten by Natrium, the joint venture backed by Deirdre Foley's D2 Capital and Britain's Cheyne Capital.
He had planned to revamp the premises into a destination store modelled on France's Galeries Lafayette and New York's Bloomingdales department stores if he had got his hands on the iconic O'Connell Street property.
Natrium is thought to have paid €29m for the store, which it put into liquidation with the loss of more than 400 jobs.
Belfast-born McKillen bid for Clerys in partnership with businessman Tony Leonard through their joint venture, Clarendon Properties.
McKillen and Clarendon declined to comment, but sources say the company wanted to keep Clerys' brand and employees.
A major revamp of the store was planned to emphasise its heritage, in particular its role in the 1916 Rising.
A new restaurant was also planned for the store.
Clarendon Properties has a track record in retail. It owns the buildings on Dublin's College Green which are leased to Abercrombie and H&M, as well as Jervis Street and Nutgrove Shopping Centres.
Others who had hoped to buy Clerys included the store's former chairman Eoin McGettigan, who was willing to pay €20m but was never asked to make a formal bid.
Like McKillen, McGettigan also wanted to continue to run Clerys as a retail store.
But the Clerys store was worth more as a building with a fresh start rather than as a business that had debts and workers to absorb.
McGettigan said any bid over €20m would have meant closing the department store's retail function because of the costs a new owner would have to take on in revitalising the business.
"I never got past go," McGettigan told The Sunday Business Post. "There was no way I was going to because with the price expectation they set only a property player would work."
The iconic store was sold to real estate company Natrium Ltd last Friday week, spelling the end of the Clerys' trading culture known to generations of Dubliners.
"We had no interest in closing it because we wanted to run retail," said Mr McGettigan.
McGettigan branded the closure of Clerys as "cynical", adding he thinks there is a trading future for the store.
The liquidation of Clerys and loss of jobs provoked criticism at the highest levels of government, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton both condemning the closure.
The Government may now amend company law to prevent similar situations occurring in future, Communications Minister Alex White said over the weekend.
"If there is a way we can amend company law we will do that, but there is no law we can introduce in the Dail next week to eradicate capitalism," he said.