Friday 28 October 2016

Longboat developer Bernard McNamara out of bankruptcy and back building in Dublin

Developer Bernard McNamara's company built the Longboat Quay apartments back in 2006
Developer Bernard McNamara's company built the Longboat Quay apartments back in 2006
The Shelbourne, once owned by a group led by McNamara

The developer behind the Longboat Quay apartments is back building in Dublin after being discharged from bankruptcy.

Bernard McNamara was one of the biggest developers in the country during the Celtic Tiger years, but was one of the biggest losers in the crash that followed and he was declared bankrupt in the UK with debts of €1.2bn.

That was discharged last year and he has since re-established himself in the Irish market, in particular in the capital.

Most notably, his company is building the LXV office block on St Stephen's Green.

The office block, which is owned by businessman Denis O'Brien, has already been let to an aircraft leasing firm at the highest rent since the crash. He is said to be involved in several other projects around the city.

Mr O'Brien is a shareholder in Independent News & Media, the company which owns this newspaper.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been urged to personally contact McNamara in a bid to resolve safety defects at the country's newest firetrap.

The plight of residents at Dublin's Longboat Quay complex was raised in the Dail today.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the residents, who are facing evacuation unless they fund €4m worth of works, are enduring a "stressful and utterly unacceptable situation".

Ms McDonald called on Mr Kenny to personally call Mr McNamara, whose company built the complex in 2006. The firm later went into receivership.

"He's back in business. Things seem to be good for him again," Ms McDonald said during Leaders' Questions.

Mr Kenny said he is conscious of the difficulties faced by the families and that the country remembers the plight of the residents of Priory Hall.

"There may be others in the system," Mr Kenny added.


Mr McNamara made his name on apartments and office blocks during the boom, but is perhaps best known for some of his property plays that went belly up once the crash took hold.

The family business was set up by his father Michael, and hoardings for Michael McNamara Construction in Clare's blue and yellow livery became one of the most common sights around Dublin and the rest of the country.

In what now may seem ironic given the problems at Longboat Quay, for years the McNamara business used the tagline "better built by McNamara".

However, that moniker had long been considered appropriate for his buildings, which have historically had a reputation for being of good quality.

He was a Fianna Fail councillor during the 1970s and ran once as a candidate in a general election before moving to Dublin to make his fortune in the 1980s.

As a contractor, his company became one of a small group of companies with the ability to tender for large State projects.

Working as a developer, however, was where he was able to make - and lose - the really big money. The plays he was involved in give some idea of how big a deal he became over the last decade and a half.

He led a consortium that paid €288m for the Burlington Hotel in 2007 and was expected to build apartments on the site.

During the Battle of Ballsbridge, when property in that area was among the most expensive in the world, his team shelled out €46m for Carisbrook House - a 1960s era office block in the suburb.

But that wasn't all. He then led a group which forked out €140m for the Shelbourne Hotel before ploughing €90m into a project to extend and renovate the premises, increasing the number of rooms to 265.

Another deal saw the purchase of the Montrose Hotel in south Dublin for €40m.

The big one, however, was the purchase of the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend for €412m. That deal involved a consortium that included the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.


Once the crash came, Mr McNamara saw his business turn quickly and his lenders soon moved against him.

Bank of Scotland (Ireland), put the Burlington into receivership and it was bought by US private equity firm Blackstone for €67m in 2012.

Carisbrook House was sold in 2012 for close to €16m.

Another investment firm, Kennedy Wilson, took over the Shelbourne Hotel 18 months ago, while the Montrose Hotel has been redeveloped for student accommodation.

The Irish Glass Bottle site is now valued at less than a tenth of the price paid for it.

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