Belfast developer Gareth Graham claims Cerberus ‘ruthless’

Graham tells Stormont inquiry US firm had adopted approach that was unreasonable

Property developer Gareth Graham (centre) leaving Stormont after speaking to the inquiry about his dealings with Cerberus. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Borrowers in Northern Ireland whose loans were acquired by the US investment company Cerberus as part of Nama’s Project Eagle sale are “unwilling or afraid to speak out against Cerberus for fear of repercussions” it has been claimed by a property developer.

Gareth Graham told the cross-party committee of politicians who are conducting the inquiry into the sale of Nama’s portfolio in the North that Cerberus had adopted an approach in Northern Ireland that was “ruthless, unjust and unreasonable”.

He recounted his own experiences with the investment company to the committee which has culminated in an ongoing legal case.

He said initially he had been optimistic his company would develop a “positive and mutually beneficial working relationship” with Cerberus following the Nama deal because it had enjoyed a similar relationship with the agency and its previous banker, Bank of Ireland.


Business plan

Mr Graham assumed he would be in a good position with the

US investment company because his company had repaid £19 million (€26 million) in capital and interest payments.

But he said it became clear from his first meeting with Cerberus on September 10th, 2014 that it was going to pursue a very different agenda than Nama in the North.

“We sat in the waiting room for 15 minutes, and our meeting with Cerberus lasted six minutes, from 11.13am to 11.19am. It was a disaster. There was no discussion; Cerberus simply asserted that all the loans it had purchased had an average weighted lifetime of 18 months and that business plans were required from us within the next four weeks. There was absolutely no regard paid to, or interest in, the previous four-and-a- half-year period, during which we had been working to the Nama business plan,” Mr Graham added.

He said Cerberus had made valuations on its assets which were “trending towards par” at £33 million, which he believed was “wholly implausible”.

Mr Graham told the Stormont inquiry he believes the valuations should have been closer to £18.5 million.

Full repayment

He said he continued to try and work with the US group and went ahead and submitted his proposals to them which included selling off properties and to pay Cerberus the sale proceeds and to do this either very quickly or over a longer period to realise more money.

Cerberus rejected these proposals and despite Mr Graham putting together a new funding package and a new offer it was rejected again.

Then in March of this year the US group informed him that it intended to appoint administrators to his company and sent him a letter demanding full repayment of the loans, approximately £33 million, within 24 hours.

Mr Graham’s legal case against Cerberus is continuing.

Cerberus is scheduled to appear before the Stormont inquiry later this month.

Politicians conducting the inquiry also yesterday agreed, despite objections lodged by some of its members, to invite Jamie Bryson, who has made allegations on his blog about the sale of Nama’s assets in the North, to give evidence in public.

Mr Bryson, who earlier this year received a six-month suspended prison sentence for taking part in unlawful public processions in the North, has said he will “fully respect the committees guidelines and terms of reference”.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business