Johnny Ronan and Colony lead bidders for former Irish Glass Bottle site

Former adversaries could join forces to develop Dublin’s largest vacant plot

The Irish Glass Bottle site at Ringsend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Irish Glass Bottle site at Ringsend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

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Developer Johnny Ronan and US investment firm Colony Capital submitted the top bid to Nama for a controlling stake in the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Dublin’s Ringsend, raising the prospect of former adversaries joining forces to develop the largest vacant plot in the city, The Irish Times has established.

Mr Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and Colony, partners on a number of high-profile commercial property projects in Dublin in recent years, are among four shortlisted bidders for an 80 per cent stake in the 37-acre site, which attracted initial offers of more than €130 million last year.

Nama received final bids on April 20th. The massive project has the potential to deliver 3,500 homes for 8,000 people, 10 per cent of which would comprise social housing and a further 15 per cent affordable housing, alongside offices and shops.

The other short-listed bidders are: Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Group; Dallas-based private equity giant Lone Star’s Quintain Ireland housebuilding unit; and Hines, a property group headquartered in Houston.

Representatives for Nama, RGRE, Quintain, Ballymore and Hines all declined to comment on the process.

Nama debtor

A deal with Mr Ronan would see Nama enter the venture with a developer with whom it has had well-documented tense history while he was a debtor of the agency.

Nama was set up in 2009 to take over risky commercial property loans from the State’s banks. Colony and another group, M&G, would subsequently back Mr Ronan in repaying his personal loans from the agency in full in 2015.

Nama subsequently did business with Mr Ronan. In 2016, RGRE and Colony bought a prime site on Spencer Place in Dublin’s north docklands from receivers that Nama had appointed to the property. They subsequently paid €180 million in 2018 for another docklands site, called Project Waterfront, from Nama.

The State-owned bad bank will have required reassurance around Colony’s commitment to the Irish Glass Bottle site development in light of the fact that it is currently seeking to sell down other Irish holdings.

Project West

These include stakes in some joint venture projects with RGRE, such as the European headquarters offices being developed for Facebook and Salesforce in Dublin. The Irish Times reported on Wednesday that property investment bank Eastdil Secured has been hired to market stakes in these projects.

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said on July 1st that he expected to be able to recommend a preferred bidder for the Irish Glass Bottle site, also known as the Project West strategic development zone, by the end of the month.

Nama had receivers appointed to two separate parts of the 37-acre site between 2011 and 2012 as the respective owners ran into financial trouble.

A company called Becbay, backed by developer Bernard McNamara, property financier Derek Quinlan and State agency the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, owned the 25-acre glass bottle land at that time. Becbay acquired the holding in the dying days of the Celtic Tiger economy, in 2006, for €412 million in an Anglo Irish Bank-backed deal.

A company linked to boom-era developer Liam Carroll held the remaining 12 acres.