Analysis: Harry Crosbie, a Dublin visionary let down by his recent troubles

Developer is being pursued by Nama following their agreement over the Point Village

Harry Crosbie, near the site of the Point Village in 2007: Nama agreed to invest €32 million to finish the project. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Harry Crosbie, near the site of the Point Village in 2007: Nama agreed to invest €32 million to finish the project. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Thu, May 15, 2014, 01:00

Nobody can dispute that Harry Crosbie had a vision for Dublin.

In neglected parts of the city he founded the Point music venue, now the O2, in 1988, helped bring the Grand Canal Theatre to life and served on the board of the Convention Centre Dublin.

However, by seeking a summary judgment of €77 million against Crosbie in the High Court yesterday, Nama was clearly uninterested with his past. It was his more recent alleged failings it was concerned with.

In 2009 Crosbie’s property and entertainment projects owed their banks more than €500 million (reduced to €431 million today). Included in this were personal loans of €77 million.

When his loans were transferred over to Nama from AIB in 2010, Crosbie found himself among its top 50 clients. He had €20 million in cash, which Nama took in December 2010.

According to Nama, Crosbie also made payments of €740,000 and €650,000 to his wife Rita around this time, as well as cash gifts to his children, which the agency did not know about until later.

Entertainment venues
On the other hand, Crosbie’s entertainment venues were earning millions in cash and creating hundreds of jobs.

In September 2011, for example, Bord Gáis paid €4.5 million for the naming rights to the Grand Canal Theatre for six years.

The big problem was the Point Village, a planned new retail zone in the North docks. To finish it out, Crosbie needed money, and Nama agreed to invest €32 million more to achieve that goal.

According to Nama, Crosbie gave it an incomplete statement of affairs in February 2011 in return for its support. It is a criminal offence to do so, it said in court yesterday.

Assets including property in the south of France were omitted, Nama claims. It also wanted his antiques collection and artworks sold off.

Crosbie denies any wrongdoing, and contends omissions in his statement of affairs were “unintentional”.

He also notes that, unlike other developers, Nama never paid him a salary.

Crosbie had a valuable stake in concert venue business Amphitheatre Ireland Ltd (AIL). This owned the O2, and Crosbie had a 50 per cent share, with the remainder held by Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter.

Nama wanted Crosbie’s unencumbered assets. In August 2012, after negotiations Crosbie describes as “vicious,” he reached an agreement with Nama. He sold his stake in AIL for €35 million, and put his French properties up for sale.

‘Comprehensive agreement’
Crosbie claims this was a “comprehensive agreement”, where in return for his co-operation Nama agreed it would “no longer have legal recourse” to his family home, his son’s home and a business run by his wife. It would also help him in dealings with his other banks, so he could avoid bankruptcy, he claims.

Nama disputes this, and argued in court yesterday this claim was not supported in correspondence between the two sides.

Both sides supplied reams of paperwork yesterday, ensuring Justice David Keane has much to ponder.