Stephen Vernon’s foresight vindicated again by latest Blanchardstown sale

Finance giants have taken successive hits since Vernon’s Green Property offloaded shopping centre

Goldman Sachs’ decision to sell the Blanchardstown Centre in Dublin – at a potential loss of as much as €100 million compared to the €750 million it spent acquiring the property from private equity giant Blackstone in 2020 – underlines the issues facing the commercial property market amid higher rates and a struggling retail sector.

The planned sale would also seem to confirm Stephen Vernon as the smartest guy in the Irish real estate market, yet again.

Mr Vernon famously was one of the few big developers to avoid the madness of the Celtic Tiger years, when others were forking out hundreds of million of euro for properties that would later end up sold for pennies on the euro. As head of Green Property he enhanced his reputation by offloading some of his firm’s portfolio, and largely staying away from new deals. In short, it was what he didn’t do as much as what he did during those years that made him millions.

Then in 2013 he teamed up with Pat Gunne to set up Ireland’s first real estate investment trust. Green REIT bought mostly offices in Dublin, building up a substantial portfolio before selling the business to UK firm Henderson Park for about €1.3 billion in 2019. Since the sale, Henderson Park has been selling down parts of the portfolio. There is a real question as to whether Henderson Park overpaid for the business at a time when investors were searching for yield wherever they could find it amid rock-bottom interest rates.


And between setting up and selling Green REIT, Vernon’s Green Property vehicle sold the Blanchardstown Centre to Blackstone for about €950 million in 2016.

Seven years later, what had been one of the linchpins of Irish commercial property would appear to have declined in value by about a third, across two transactions, and it’s two of the most storied names in international finance who have taken, or will be taking, the hit – not Vernon.

At the time of both the original Blanchardstown sale and the Green REIT takeover, Vernon was adamant he was not calling the top of the market, but in the years since it’s fair to say they were very canny deals indeed. Even at the age of 73, his reputation continues to be enhanced.