Cerberus told Peter Robinson it would write down €6bn debts
Letter to NI’s First Minister shows investor offered to cancel developers’ guarantees
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson with Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Cerberus wrote the letter ahead of a meeting between the company, Mr Robinson, his special adviser and the north’s then Minister of Finance, Simon Hamilton. Photograph: Alan Betson
US investor Cerberus told Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, that it would write down developers’ €6 billion debts and cancel personal guarantees they gave against their liabilities, ahead of buying Nama’s Project Eagle last year.
Cerberus Capital Management’s €1.6 billion purchase of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans, worth a total of €6 billion, in April 2014 is at the centre of claims that a number of Belfast political and business figures were to receive payments as a result of the deal. The company itself denies any wrongdoing.
The Northern Ireland Assembly on Wednesday published a letter that Cerberus wrote to Mr Robinson’s office in March 2014 pledging that the company would cancel personal and corporate guarantees that many of the developers had given to repay bank loans to their property businesses, once they cooperated with the resolution of their debts.
The company also stated that it was prepared to write off or forgive part of the €6 billion total owed by the developers in exchange for their cooperating with a timely and fair resolution of their debts.
Cerberus wrote the letter ahead of a meeting between the company, Mr Robinson, his special adviser and the north’s then Minister of Finance, Simon Hamilton.
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Tughans advised Cerberus on the deal. Its managing partner, Ian Coulter, left the firm in January following a dispute over diverted fees.
Cerberus won the Project Eagle auction the following month with a £1.24 billion (€1.6 billion) bid, seeing off a slightly lower offer tabled by rival Fortress, another US investment fund.
The letter contains similar commitments to those that another bidder, Pimco, indicated to a number of Northern Ireland Executive ministers that it was prepared to make to developers had it been successful.
Pimco left the Project Eagle auction in March 2014 after informing Nama that it had discussed paying £5 million each in success fees to a former member of the agency’s Northern Ireland Advisory Board, Frank Cushnahan, Belfast solicitors Tughans and New York lawyers Brown Rudnick.
Pimco originally signalled its interest in the loans in early 2013. A letter from Brown Rudnick partner Tuvi Keinan in June 2013 to Mr Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party colleague, Sammy Wilson, who was then Minister of Finance, showed that it was willing to cancel the developers’ personal guarantees in return for their co-operation.
In January last year, Mr Robinson stressed to Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, the comfort that Pimco’s commitments on how it intended to manage the loans provided.