Central case in Johnny Ronan dispute with DigitalBridge adjourned

Dispute arose over co-investor’s intentions to sell its stakes in three Dublin developments

The main case in a dispute between the development company run by Johnny Ronan and its co-investor in three planned high-profile developments in Dublin has been adjourned until May at the High Court.

In November the court heard an element of the case, relating to injunctions obtained in October by Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE), had been resolved and there was no need for a hearing on that.

However, the main case involving a number of other issues remained and it came before Mr Justice Denis McDonald on Tuesday for mention on how preparations for hearing it were progressing.

James Doherty SC, for RGRE, told the judge the parties had agreed revised directions on how the case should proceed, and the matter could come back before the court in May.

Mr Justice McDonald adjourned the matter until then and also said the parties should issue any discovery motions if there was any dispute about it.

The dispute first came before the court when RGRE tried to prevent its co-investor, DigitalBridge, formerly Colony Capital, from completing the sale of its stakes in the Dublin developments, worth an estimated €1 billion, to US group Fortress Investment.

These comprise the mixed residential and commercial development known as the Waterfront in Dublin’s docklands, Facebook’s new European headquarters at Fibonacci Square in Ballsbridge, and the Spencer Place development in the docklands that includes a headquarters tower for tech firm Salesforce and a luxury hotel, the Samuel, to be operated by the Dalata Group.

Two injunctions

RGRE obtained two injunctions in October restraining completion of the sale and also preventing DigitalBridge appointing a receiver over the Waterfront assets arising from an alleged €317 million debt. DigitalBridge owns some 70 per cent of Waterfront.

The injunctions were sought by RGRE and a number of related companies pending determination of the full dispute. DigitalBridge and a number of related companies opposed the injunction applications and denied the claims of RGRE.

In November the court was due to hear a case on whether the injunctions should continue pending the main case, when Mr Justice McDonald was told that this aspect of the case had been resolved following talks.

The dispute arises out of a 2021 agreement by DigitalBridge relating to a $2.7 billion (€2.3 billion) transaction to sell its non-digital European property assets to Fortress.

DigitalBridge’s joint ventures with RGRE are proposed to be wrapped into that deal, over objections from Mr Ronan.