Long-term lease prized at the Iveagh Fitness Club

Value of the club mainly due to Sean Quinn negotiationg a 250-year rent-free package


JACK FAGAN Commercial Property Editor

The highly profitable Iveagh Fitness Club and its extensive Victorian premises held by Quinn Insurance Ltd. at Bride Road, close to Christchurch in Dublin 2, are to be offered for sale by the State-appointed joint administrators of the company.

It will be one of the last Irish property assets controlled by the insurance company to be sold off by joint administrators Michael McAteer and Paul McCann of Grant Thornton.

The greatly enhanced value of the club is due in part to its central location, strong membership and top of the range facilities but more particularly to the ingenuity of Sean Quinn in negotiating a 250-year rent-free arrangement with the Iveagh Trust for the former baths.

Neither Grant Thornton, the Iveagh Trust nor a close associate of Mr Quinn could recall this week whether a premium was paid in return for the unusually long rent free arrangement. However, one source familiar with the club said he believed Quinn Insurance must have paid “several hundred thousands Irish pounds” for the long-term lease from January, 1997.

Whatever the payment for the sweetheart arrangement, Quinn Insurance undoubtedly spent substantially more on the redevelopment of the building which had housed public baths up to then from way back in 1906. Though housed in a delightful art noveau building, the baths became quite run down in the end and were little used until Quinn struck a deal with the Iveagh Trust as part of its expansion into fitness clubs, bars and hotels.

The detached building has an overall floor area of 1,999sq m (21,516sq ft) over three floors and a 13-metre swimming pool and changing facilities on the ground floor. The two upper floors have a wide range of gymnasium equipment.

The Iveagh Fitness Club traded successfully from the early years because of its convenience for young workers employed in the city centre. The facilities are currently used by 2,327 people who pay average membership fees of €690.

The overall capacity would allow between 3,000 and 3,500 people to use the premises. There are currently 22 staff employed by the club.

Sources close to the club estimate that the membership revenue last year came to around €1.3 million and said that the business probably had an overall profit of around €400,000. The club’s only significant outgoing is a €50,000 rates bill.

No guide price for the sale has been issued at this stage but one estate agent familiar with the industry suggested that bids are likely to range between €3.5 and €4 million.

Grant Thornton recently organised for external repairs and a repointing to the building which still reflects the influences of the arts and crafts movement including a terracotta Roman cement panel with the Iveagh inscription over the front door.

The front façade is formed of brick set on granite plinth and is decorated with terracotta panels formed from a type of Roman cement.

The pitch pine roof is supported by steel and includes a glazed roof light.

The Iveagh Trust’s predilection for long-term leases may well have been influenced by Arthur Guinness who leased the lands for the new Dublin brewery in 1759 for a period of 9,000 years at a rent of IP£45 per year. The company later bought out the leasehold arrangement.