Desmond group understood to have bought Barbados hotel


A CONSORTIUM consisting of financier, Mr Dermot Desmond, and former bookmaker, Mr JP McManus, has completed the deal to purchase Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, according to informed sources.

A spokesperson for Mr Desmond would make no comment but the consideration is understood to be £38 million. Negotiations have been taking place for several weeks with a number of interested parties.

Earlier this month Granada's chief executive, Mr Gerry Robinson, at the launch of the Shelbourne Hotel as part of Granada's Meridien international hotel chain, told The Irish Times there would be no deal until somebody signed up. "There is no done deal until the money is in the bank". However, the consortium headed by Mr Desmond was always considered the favourite to win.

The Sandy Lane Hotel has 150 rooms and a jet set clientele. Its regular guests include film director, Mr Michael Winner and co founder of Planet Hollywood restaurants, Mr Robert Earl. It has its own 18 hole golf course

The carrying value of Sandy Lane in Granada's balance sheet is £26 million. A more recent valuation by Christies amounted to £32 million. However, the hotel is on a site which has extra land that can be used for either expansion and/ or development. This is understood to have been one of the attractions of the deal. Plans are afoot to upgrade the hotel.

The latest deal by Mr Desmond follows a number of other recent high profile investments. In Britain he purchased a 15 per cent stake in Glasgow Celtic football club. And the London City Airport was acquired for £14.5 million.

Mr Desmond has been an investor since he sold his majority stake in NCB stockbrokers to Ulster Bank. He has also made a number of investments in Irish publicly quoted companies. Last month his International Investment and Underwriting company announced that it had increased its stake in Unidare to more than 13 per cent.

He started building his stake in Unidare earlier this year. It is seen as a recovery stock having disappointed the market by downgrading expectations about its results.

He has also built up a 6.5 per cent stake in agri-business Golden Vale, a 3.5 per cent shareholding in engineering group Barlo and a 3.3 per cent interest in engineering and shipping company, Jones.

The Shelbourne hotel is not earmarked for sale. Mr Robinson was asked about retaining the Dublin hotel and said. "When we took over Forte, we took a close look at everything and came to the conclusion that the Shelbourne is an excellent fit in the Meridien." The hotel is now part of the group's international booking network.

Since the takeover of Forte, Granada has invested £1.2 million in upgrading the Shelbourne's rooms.