US paid Ballymore £120m for UK embassy site criticised by Trump
President claimed move to 12-storey building at Nine Elms in Battersea was a ‘bad deal’
A waxwork model of Donald Trump outside the new US embassy in Nine Elms, Battersea, in January. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images
The United States paid Irish property developer Ballymore £120 million (€135 million) for the site of its controversial new embassy in London, which has been criticised by Donald Trump and is a focal point during the US president’s current trip to the UK.
The price was revealed by UK publication Property Week on Friday, as it reported on the background of the US decision more than a decade ago to move its embassy from Grosvenor Square in the upmarket Mayfair district in west London.
The US acquired the site of the new 97-metre tall, 12-storey, 48,124sq m (518,000sq ft) building at Nine Elms in Battersea on the south bank of the Thames river from Ballymore in 2010.
“Their decision to move here triggered one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe,” John Mulryan, managing director of the Ballymore group and son of its founder, Sean Mulryan, said in an interview with the publication.
“Now it seems so obvious: Nine Elms is so central. It was just waiting to happen. But back then nobody felt that way.”
Mr Trump dramatically cancelled a planned visit to London in January to open the new embassy, claiming that the Obama administration had sold its previous embassy on Grosvenor Square for “peanuts” only to build the Nine Elms building in a “bad deal”.
However, Property Week reported that the US generated almost $1 billion (€860 million) from the sale of the previous embassy and a nearby facility – roughly the same cost of buying the site and constructing its new state-of-the-art fortress in London.
The US embassy has warned American citizens in the UK to “keep a low profile” during Mr Trump’s three-day visit to the UK, which started on Thursday.
His arrival in the country saw Amnesty International unfurl a banner on a bridge over the Thames, opposite the embassy, depicting the US president’s face and the words “Human Rights Nightmare”.
Meanwhile, a pro-Trump march is scheduled to leave from outside the embassy on Saturday at 10am.
Ballymore’s interest in the area surrounding the embassy came in 2006, according to Mr Mulryan, when it looked at acquiring Battersea Power Station.
That property was subsequently bought by Treasury Holdings, which was led by Irish developers Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett. The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) later took over loans linked to the project during the financial crisis and, along with other lenders, sold the asset a year later.
Ballymore, meanwhile, snapped up 21 acres of land across four different plots in the area in 2007 for around £160 million. The location is also now home to the new Dutch embassy, with the company, which exited Nama in late 2016, agreeing an £82 million loan with Lloyds Bank Commercial Real Estate earlier this year to “bring forward” a planned 211,000sq ft office building in the area.