Nama has won a bitter court case in London against Frank Boyd, a property developer and one of the wealthiest men in the North.
Mr Boyd’s company, Killultagh Estates, now known as Alfred Street Properties, sued Nama seeking the return of more than £4.7 million (€5.6 million) in payments linked to interest rate agreements, which the developer argued weren’t legally due because the payments were originally authorised only over the phone.
A judge this week in the Commercial Court in London, however, threw out the “meritless” and “pedantic” claim, which he said “should not have been brought and was pursued unreasonably”.
Mr Boyd is a high-profile Belfast-based developer and investor who is also prominent in sporting circles due to his wife’s co-ownership of legendary racehorse Hurricane Fly, a dual Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner.
Prior to the last property crash, Mr Boyd had built up a huge portfolio of commercial property assets in Ireland and the UK, including Bridgewater shopping centre in Arklow, Connswater in Belfast and the Pavilion in Hertfordshire.
In 2007, Killultagh Estates took out a loan of £111.5 million with Anglo Irish Bank. The next year it entered a series of interest rate swap agreements with the bank, where it would pay a fee upfront to effectively lock in a fixed rate.
Anglo had a unilateral right to extend the agreement for three years, as long as it notified Killultagh before 11am on April 2nd, 2012.
After Nama was established to clean up the banking sector’s property debts, it bought Killultagh’s swaps, before eventually taking on loans of about £196 million related to Mr Boyd’s wider business empire.
On March 30th, 2012, Nama, acting through its agent Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), decided to extend the swaps, locking Mr Boyd's company in for a further three years at a fixed rate of 5.42 per cent on a £50 million (€59 million) chunk of of its loans. The swap deal was to cost Mr Boyd £6.5 million.
At 9.15am, less than two hours before the deadline, court documents show, a junior IBRC official telephoned Killultagh's head of finance, Michael Lamont, to say Nama was exercising its extension rights. IBRC followed this up with an email about the deal, but not until after 3pm.
Killultagh's solicitors wrote to Nama arguing the interest rate swap was invalid as it should have been done in writing
In subsequent weeks, Mr Boyd’s company made the first quarterly payment of £547,000, and kept making the payments every three months.
In 2013, Mr Boyd met Nama and complained that it should have allowed him to reduce his debt burden rather than taking extra money off his company in interest swap payments. Later that year, Nama rejected his business plan.
In 2014, it sold Mr Boyd’s loans as part of a wider portfolio to Cerberus, from which he was later able to buy back control of many of his assets.
Two years later, Killultagh’s solicitors wrote to Nama arguing the interest rate swap was invalid as it should have been done in writing and claiming to be owed £4.7 million, for which it launched legal action in London.
Nama produced a transcript from the recording of the phone call, and this week a judge rejected Killultagh Estates’ claim and criticised it for its “willingness to take any and every point, however lacking in substantive and legal merit, in an attempt to recover from Nama”.