herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Nama exit puts Johnny Ronan back in business

DEVELOPER Johnny Ronan has exited Nama and freed himself to become a main player in the Irish property market.

Mr Ronan, who became one of the best known figures of the Celtic Tiger as joint head of the developer Treasury Holdings, has repaid all of his borrowings to Nama with the help of the US investment firm Colony Capital and London-based M&G Investments.

In a jubilant statement after the deal had been done, Mr Ronan's company Ronan Group Real Estate, said the €300m deal marked his "full and committed return" to the property business.

The deal effectively sees Colony Capital and M&G replace Nama as Mr Ronan's creditor. Unlike other deals that have seen developers get out of Nama however, this deal has seen Colony and M&G repay the loans in full rather than buy them from Nama.

The refinancing has been secured against 24 proeprties controlled by Ronan Group including the Connaught House office block on Burlington Road and Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street.

Ronan Group's Guy Leech said the exit was a "great achievement" and added that all parties involved in the deal had made a "huge effort" to get it over the line.

The deal makes Mr Ronan the highest profile developer to exit Nama in recent months, and brings him firmly back into a spotlight that he never really left in the first place.

Mr Ronan was one of the faces of the boom, and alongside Richard Barrett, his Treasury Holdings firm become renowned in Irish business. It built some of the best known properties in the country, including the likes of the Convention Centre, the Central Park business Park in Leopardstown, and Connaught House on Burlington Road. Its Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street houses the NTMA and Nama.

Mr Ronan's luxury Maybach saloon - often seen parked up outside the Treasury Building - became something of a symbol of tboom years but when the crash came, Treasury Holdings ultimately ended up in liquidation with debts of of more than €1bn owed to Nama alone.

Treasury's sprawling business included numerous other companies with interests in China and London. It included Battersea Power Station in London, which its Real Estate Opportunities vehicle bought for €532m in 2007.

Mr Ronan is also believed to have had personal borrowings in the millions of euro taken on by Nama.

Since the crash Mr Ronan has lowered his profile significantly but is believed to have advised a number of investors and is involved in a consortium that took on a site on Burlington Road for €40m last year.

He has also been linked with a group reported to be preparing to bid for the €1bn-valued Dundrum Town Centre.

He had teamed up with US firm Colony Capital and London-based property firm Development Securities for the Burlington Road site.

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