Nama to take control of O2 Arena as it moves against Harry Crosbie empire

Agency seeks to recoup €500m owed by developer

Harry Crosbie in the O2 arena in Dublin. None of the businesses operating in the properties of which the agency has taken control will be affected by the move. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Harry Crosbie in the O2 arena in Dublin. None of the businesses operating in the properties of which the agency has taken control will be affected by the move. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 06:00


State agency Nama is poised to take control of the O2 Arena at Dublin’s Point next week after moving against developer Harry Crosbie’s docklands property empire, which owes it up to €500 million.

The agency appointed Grant Thornton partners Stephen Tennant and Paul McCann as receivers to the companies that own the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, on Grand Canal Square, and the Point Village hotel and cinema complex, at the Point in Dublin Port.

Nama has a charge over Mr Crosbie’s 50 per cent stake in the O2 Arena, also at the Point, and the agency is likely to appoint receivers to that business next week, unless the developer settles with the agency in the meantime.

The O2, which was originally known the Point Depot when Mr Crosbie redeveloped it as a live venue, is 50 per cent owned by US group Live Nation, which manages it.

Mr Crosbie’s business, best known as the developer of the landmark theatre and concert venue, owes Nama €500 million either directly or through his organisation’s involvement with other businesses.

Of that total, his businesses, which operate under the Crosbie Group Enterprises flag, owe the State agency about €250 million. It is party to another €250 million due to the agency for developments involving other individuals and organisations. Those liabilities are joint and several, which means that the Crosbie Group could be liable for the full amount due to the agency should the other debtors fail to pay, leaving the potential liability at €500 million.

Virtually all that debt is secured against the group’s properties and assets. Also, a mortgage with AIB taken out in 2008 includes a charge over “all property and assets both present and future of Harry Crosbie”, meaning that some of his liabilities are secured against his personal assets.

Nama only takes control of properties from debtors when the business plan worked out with the agency fails to deliver on agreed targets or there has been a breakdown of trust between the parties.

Mr Crosbie and his organisation agreed a business plan with the agency after it took over his loans from AIB in 2010. Speaking to RTÉ in 2011, Mr Crosbie said Nama had been “very helpful” in providing him with working capital to complete the theatre and the Point Village.

However, in the same interview, he annoyed the agency by suggesting that it would only be repaid the actual sum it paid to acquire property loans from the banks, and not the full value of the debts, which was about twice what Nama had paid.

Last September, it emerged that he, his wife Rita and son Simon had resigned as directors of a number of key Crosbie group companies associated with his Dublin docklands property ventures. These included Amphitheatre Ireland, which owns the O2, and Grand Canal Theatre Ltd. By and large, the group’s financial controller John Dunne and/or its managing director Auke Van Der Werff replaced them.

Nama, the receivers or Mr Crosbie did not comment yesterday when contacted.

The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, which Live Nation also manages, confirmed yesterday that the agency’s move would not affect bookings at the venue.

Its sponsor said that the commercial relationship between the two, which has five years to run, would continue.