Ronan Group gets injunction preventing Digital Bridge selling Dublin stakes

Johnny Ronan’s development company gets second court order in two weeks against co-investor

Johnny Ronan’s Waterfront development in Dublin’s docklands is at the centre of a legal dispute. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Johnny Ronan’s Waterfront development in Dublin’s docklands is at the centre of a legal dispute. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Ronan Group Real Estate, the development company run by Johnny Ronan, has obtained its second High Court injunction against its co-investor, Digital Bridge Inc, formerly Colony Capital, in as many weeks.

RGRE on Friday obtained an order restraining Digital Bridge from selling its stakes in three major RGRE developments in Dublin to US group, Fortress Investment. These include the mixed residential and commercial development, the Waterfront, on Dublin’s docklands; Facebook’s new European headquarters in Ballsbridge, Fibonacci Square; and the Spencer Place development in the docklands that includes a headquarters tower for tech firm Salesforce and a luxury hotel, the Samuel, which will be operated by Dalata Group.

It follows on from a separate injunction obtained last week by RGRE preventing Digital Bridge, from appointing a receiver to Waterfront, after it sought repayment of €317 million owned by RGRE on that development. Digital Bridge owns 70 per cent of Waterfront.

The row stems from an agreement this year by Digital Bridge to jettison its non-digital assets, agreeing a $2.7 billion (€2.3 billion) transaction to sell its European property assets to Fortress. Digital Bridge’s joint ventures with RGRE are proposed to be wrapped into that deal, over objections from Mr Ronan.

RGRE claims this breaches an agreement reached with Digital Bridge last December to sell its interests in the Dublin developments to a consortium backed by South African institutional investors.

In last week’s proceedings, RGRE claimed that if Digital Bridge sold the stakes to Fortress, it would have “catastrophic” consequences for the developments. Colony’s legal team suggested in court that this claim was a “puff of smoke”. RGRE also claimed in last week’s proceedings that Fortress said in a phone call that it would be “calling the shots” after it buys Colony’s interests.

RGRE this week also succeeded in joining Fortress as a defendant in its dispute with Colony.

Digital Bridge provided finance for Mr Ronan’s exit from the National Asset Management Agency six years ago, and subsequently became his partner on his developments in Dublin.

Speaking after it obtained the injunction in an ex-parte hearing before Mr Justice Denis McDonald, RGRE said it hoped the South African deal will now go ahead. Digital Bridge declined to comment on the case.