Johnny Ronan and Oaktree sign Irish Glass Bottle site deal for €200m

Irish developer switched joint venture partners after being selected as preferred bidder

Nama said on Tuesday that developer Johnny Ronan and US investment firm Oaktree have signed up to buy an 80 per cent stake in the former Irish Glass Bottle site and an adjoining plot in Dublin.

Sources said the winning bid for the controlling interest came to a higher-than-expected €200 million, which put an overall value on the 37-acre site, held through a company called Pembroke Ventures, at €250 million. Completion of the deal is subject to approval from competition authorities.

Long a symbol of Celtic Tiger hubris, the largest vacant plot in the capital is expected to deliver up to 3,800 homes, 25 per cent of which are earmarked for social and affordable housing, as well as 1 million sq ft (92,903 sq m) of commercial space. There are also plans for a school and public open spaces.

Mr Ronan's Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and another US investment company, Colony, were selected by Nama in late July as preferred bidders for a controlling stake in the land and given 30 days to complete.


However, The Irish Times reported in October, long after the initial completion deadline had passed, that RGRE had changed partners to join forces with Oaktree.

Key role

Lioncor, a property development company jointly owned by Oaktree and Dublin-based Alanis Capital, will play a key role in delivering homes on the site, in which Nama will retain a 20 per cent interest, the agency confirmed.

Spokesmen for Nama and RGRE declined to comment on the value of the transaction.

“This announcement marks the culmination of five years of intensive asset management designed to achieve the best financial return from this key site while facilitating its future development,” said Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh.

Rory Williams, chief executive of RGRE, said: “This is a strategic development for Dublin in the truest sense of the term. Together with Oaktree, Lioncor and Nama, we are proud to have been entrusted with the responsibility of realising the site’s full potential. We look forward in particular to delivering thousands of new homes, including almost 900 social and affordable units.”

Underbidders for the project had contacted Nama in September to express their continued interest in the site following the expiration of the original deadline, sources said at the time.

Rival offers

The other shortlisted bidders were: Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Group; Dallas-based private equity giant Lone Star’s house-building unit Quintain Ireland; and US real estate investment firm Hines. The RGRE-led bid was well above the original €125 million guide price and rival offers.

Industry observers questioned Colony’s original involvement in the bid, as it was known at the time to be seeking to sell down other Irish holdings, including joint venture projects with RGRE.

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 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.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times