Johnny Ronan claims he is owed €3.3m relating to Fibonacci Square office development

Developer says he may pursue a court petition for a wind-up of the Fortress company that ultimately owns development

Developer Johnny Ronan has opened a new front in wranglings with US investment group Fortress, claiming he is owed almost €3.32 million from an insurance award relating to their joint Fibonacci Square office development in Dublin’s Ballsbridge. The complex is let to Facebook parent Meta.

He has threatened that non-payment of the amount may lead to him pursuing a court petition for a wind-up of the Fortress company in the Isle of Man, called Aquela Ltd, that ultimately owns the development, which once was valued at €550 million. Aquela denies that the money is owed.

Mr Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) swapped its stake in Fibonacci Square with Fortress in 2022 in return for the New York investment firm’s interest in Waterfront South Central, a development site on the Dublin quays.

However, the deal contained a clause giving Mr Ronan a personal ongoing entitlement to 75 per cent of a business interruption insurance compensation payment stemming from delays to the development during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statutory demand, delivered by Isle of Man law firm DQ earlier this month to Aquela on the developer’s behalf.


The letter has been seen by The Irish Times. It gave Aquela, which ultimately owns the development at AIB’s former headquarters through an intermediary fund, three weeks from April 2nd to pay nearly €3.32 million to Mr Ronan. It equated to 75 per cent of a business interruption settlement Aquela received “on or before” March 15th, it claims.

Otherwise, Mr Ronan “reserves his rights to issue a petition in the High Court of Justice in the Isle of Man for an order winding-up Aquela on the basis that it is unable to pay its debts,” the letter said.

It is understood that the money had not been paid into Mr Ronan’s account by the time the deadline expired on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Fortress said that its Aquela entity “disputes that there is any amount owning to Mr Ronan” under the 2022 stake-swap agreement. A spokesman for the developer also declined to comment.

Fortress acquired loans and equity states on various RGRE projects in 2021 when it bought an international portfolio from Digital Bridge (formerly known as Colony Capital). Colony became a joint venture partner and lender on a host of RGRE developments when it part-funded the developer’s refinancing of €300 million of National Asset Management Agency (Nama) loans in 2015.

RGRE is currently pursuing a case in the Commercial Court in Dublin, in which it alleges that Fortress entities failed to engage in 2022 with Mr Ronan’s group as it sought to refinance facilities under a development assets facility agreement. The claims are denied.

Fortress appointed receivers over a portfolio of five assets last year. Three of these – including a premises on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square, a development site elsewhere in the city and another in the Enniskerry area of Co Wicklow – have since been put on the market.

The process is separate to a consensual receivership initiated by Bank of Ireland and AIB over another portfolio of 12 Ronan assets. A sales process for 11 of these, including the landmark Grafton Street premises of Bewley’s Cafe, was also launched earlier this month.

Bank of Ireland and AIB are also lenders to the Fibonacci Square development through a type of fund known as an Irish collective asset-management vehicle (Icav). This ringfences the asset and its financing from the dispute Mr Ronan has with Aquela, the owner of the Icav. Spokesmen for AIB and Bank of Ireland declined to comment.

Meta entered a 25-year lease in 2018 over the 34,838sq m (375,000sq ft) Fibonacci Square office project, but decided in late 2022 not to occupy the space. A deal by Fortress to sell the premises for €550 million to the family firm of Zara founder Amancio Ortega fell through early last year.

The US tech giant leases and occupies 31,536sq m of office space across the four existing blocks behind the Fibonacci Square development.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times