Belfast businessman wins access to funds in fight against US fund

Cerberus bought Gareth Graham’s loans from Nama last year

Gareth Graham must pledge to repay the funds if he  ultimately loses the case against Cerberus Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Gareth Graham must pledge to repay the funds if he ultimately loses the case against Cerberus Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

A Belfast businessman attempting to stop a US investment fund putting two of his companies into administration is to be allowed access to £75,000 (€105,000) to fund his legal fight.

Gareth Graham will be able to use the revenue from his property firms after pledging to comply with any order to make full reimbursement if he ultimately loses the case against Cerberus.

Disputed moves towards receivers taking control of the companies have also been stalled after the High Court battle was put back until next year.

A judge on Thursday fixed the trial for a potential two-week hearing in January.

Mr Graham is a director and major shareholder in STH 500 and Lehill Properties, which own a variety of commercial and residential premises in Belfast.

The firms’ loans were among those transferred over to Nama.

Last year Cerberus snapped up Nama’s entire Northern Ireland portfolio in a deal reportedly worth more than £1 billion.

The international investment firm, sometimes referred to as a vulture fund, operates a business model where borrowers rapidly repay loans by selling properties or finding new financial backers.

In other cases administrators or receivers are appointed as part of the process.

Mr Graham is challenging Cerberus’s legal right to take such steps against his companies.

He insists his businesses were financially strong and never missed a repayment.

Another area of major contention is an alleged demand to repay all of the loan within a 48-hour period.

The legal challenge was due to be heard at the High Court in Belfast in October.

But the trial date has now been put back due to the scale and predicted length of the case.

Stephen Shaw QC, for Cerberus, told a review hearing today: “The underlying issues are so fundamentally important to us that we want to ensure we get in and have them addressed.”

Meanwhile, Mr Graham’s barristers, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC and Wayne Atchison, confirmed his personal undertaking to repay funds being used for his legal costs should be ultimately lose.

Initially capped at £75,000, the money is to come from rental income on some of the properties.