Irish investor in New York retail property ‘selling spree’

Aidan Brooks said to be selling the so-called Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue

 

For such an enthusiastic investor in some of the highest-profile shopping streets in the world, Limerick man Aidan Brooks is a pretty low-key guy.

He was unable to escape the spotlight in the Big Apple this week, however, after the New York Post wrote that he has “embarked on a selling spree” of assets housing some famous luxury retail names.

The Post reported that Brooks is selling the flagship US store of Polo Ralph Lauren, the so-called Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue. His Tribeca Holdings company bought it a decade ago for $80 million in a deal that was reportedly backed by his Limerick buddy, JP McManus, and also John Magnier.

Brooks was unavailable to comment on the Post report, which didn’t speculate on the price he is seeking for the Rhinelander.

But with the upsurge in consumer spending in the US in recent years, it is probably a decent bet to suggest the Limerick-led consortium will do well on the deal for the landmark building. Better, one suspects, than some of their countrymen have in the past.

The Rhinelander building has passed through Irish hands before. It is modelled on a Loire Valley chateaux, so perhaps our native property investors are suckers for a touch of glamour.

In 1989, just as the US economy was finishing off a decade-long consumer splurge, Dublin-based Power Corporation bought the Rhinelander for $43 million, then a record price per square foot for a retail investment in Manhattan.

Seven years later, it was reportedly sold for a similar price when Power, then run by Paddy McKillen’s current business partner, Tony Leonard, stumbled into a restructuring due to its massive debt pile.

Back to the present, and it seems Brooks’ timing is considerably better than Leonard’s on this occasion.

Whatever about the Rhinelander, there is absolutely no doubt that Brooks, Magnier and McManus are set to clean up on another high-end New York property they have also reportedly put up for sale.

Tribeca is also apparently flogging the SoHo home of Bloomingdales department store, which the three Irish musketeers bought for a reported $34.5 million in 2007.

Its value now? More than $200 million, based upon the prices paid recently for nearby buildings. That suggests they could be set to bag close to a 600 per cent profit on the Broadway deal.

McManus is currently fighting the US taxman over a $5.2 million federal tax bill on $17 million he won playing poker with billionaire Alec Gores. A judgment on that row is due in the summer. From his deals with Brooks alone, he will have no shortage of greenbacks to bridge the gap if the case doesn’t go his way.

It is also reported that Brooks recently sold a retail building in Pasadena for $40 million, buttons compared to his New York deals. He also sold the Hermes store on Madison Avenue last year to Ashkenazy Acquisition for $115 million

Is Brooks calling the end of the US consumer-driven revival, or does he simply have a better use for the cash elsewhere?

Late last year, Tribeca bought out the stakes it did not already own in a £1 billion portfolio of prime London retail property assets, including Brompton Cross Estate in Knightsbridge, stores on Bond Street and Old Spitalfields Market near the financial district.

It was reported at the time that he had sold $500 million of US assets to fund the deal, including the Hermes store.

Perhaps the proposed deals for the Rhinelander and Bloomingdales buildings are the loose ends of that series of transactions. Brooks, who appears not to have given a newspaper interview for at least 15 years, started out erecting television aerials around Limerick for his father’s electrical business when he left school aged 18 with a modest Leaving Cert.

With a fraction of the profile of some of his less successful industry compatriots, he is now firmly established as a major investor on some of the most sought-after shopping streets in the world. It might be a long way from Howley’s Quay to the bright lights of Madison Avenue, but it’s not as far as some people might think.

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Footnotes

St Patrick’s Day also looks like it could be D-Day for Waterford-born impresario Vince Power in his battle to save his beloved KPH pub in Notting Hill, London from rapacious property developers.

Power runs KPH, an arty music establishment that harks back to a bygone era, on behalf of its leaseholder, who has been issued with a notice to quit by the new owners of the building.

The developers who own the freehold want to build luxury flats on the four floors above, which could be curtains for the KPH, traditionally a watering hole for Irish and West Indian immigrants.

The KPH is scheduled for a court hearing on March 17th seeking leave to appeal an earlier ruling that it is in breach of its lease and must vacate. If it loses on St Patrick’s Day, it is out, Power fears. No jokes, please, about the luck of the Irish.

Power has singer Mary Coughlan booked in to perform on the 17th, so there’ll be a session in any event.

Power is attempting to drum up support for his last stand by starting a petition for the Historic England body to make a site visit before the court hearing, which could ultimately lead to a listing of the building.

He told me on Thursday that a visit by the body would help buttress KPH’s position for the appeal hearing.

“As it stands, there’s a 50/50 chance we could save it. I don’t like 50/50 chances,” he said.

Power, who also previously ran the Benacassim festival in Spain, also runs Nell’s, a 350 capacity venue in west Kensington.

“It’s going well. Van Morrison has played it about 10 times for me,” he said. It helps to have Power’s contacts book.

He says he is also planning a return of his 1990s Fleadh outdoor festivals to the US later this year. He is targeting New York in September. It has previously also travelled to traditional Irish-US strongholds such as Chicago and Boston.

The music never stops for some.

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An Irish company says it is “co-ordinating” a $1 billion global bid for a super casino resort licence in Cyprus. It also says the consortium involves Donald Trump (left). Tony Herbert, a Cork-based scientist and engineer, has set up an Irish company, Mediterranean Leisure, along with a Greek academic friend of his.

Despite having no experience in the gambling sector, he says they have assembled the GoldenLady consortium, including the Trump Hotel Collection, US casino operator Navegante and the number one French casino outfit, Partouche.

The eight initial bidders, thought to also include Hard Rock International, are due to be whittled down to three in coming weeks, with the licence due to be awarded in summer.

It seems like an awfully big bet for a small Irish company. If it makes it into the final leg of the race, perhaps more people will sit up and take notice.

*******

Platinum One, the Irish registered arm of the sports promotion agency run by former Anglo Irish Bank non-executive director Fintan Drury, has just filed historical financial results that shed some light on its negotiations with lenders.

The accounts filed in recent weeks are for the 2013 trading period. They show that, at that time, the company’s balance sheet deficit had increased from €867,000 to €1.13 million.

The accounts state, however, that last November it agreed to pay off its bank overdraft of €100,000 in instalments up to February 2017.

It also owed IBRC, the spawn of Drury’s old bank, €244,000, but this loan was bought by Pepper Group a year ago. This month, Platinum settled the loan for €84,000.

A Drury-linked consultancy company sold the Irish Platinum company services worth €140,000 during the year, while it also paid €20,000 in rent on a building part-owned by him.

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