Banking inquiry: Who is Derek Quinlan?

Boomtime property financier before banking inquiry

Derek Quinlan, one of Ireland's most prolific property financiers in the boom years, was appearing before the banking inquiry on Thursday.

Mr Quinlan, who was one of Anglo Irish Bank's biggest clients, has been living outside the country since 2009, first in Switzerland and then in London.

He said he moved abroad to maximise the returns to his creditor banks.

“It was a very, very painful move. I was 61 years of age at the time with a young family,” he told the inquiry.


Mr Quinlan (67), was raised in Dublin and attended Blackrock College secondary school.

He said in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine his parents had “virtually no money”.

Mr Quinlan studied commerce at University College Dublin (UCD) before he qualified as a chartered accountant.

He then worked in the public sector as a tax inspector with the Revenue Commissioners for six years.

Mr Quinlan left to found a business which provided tax and financial advice to wealthy individuals in May 1989. The business became known as Quinlan Private.

His first deal’s was arranging €5 million through private investors in The Square shopping centre in Tallaght, west Dublin in 1990.

His first deal was arranging €5 million investment through private investors in The Square shopping centre in Tallaght, west Dublin in 1990.

“Other significant investments took place during the 1990s, including an investment of approximately €250 million in the IFSC,” Mr Quinlan told the inquiry.

Through most of the nineties, he continued to attract high net-worth clients, including doctors, barristers, solicitors and high profile celebrities, and his deals grew larger but attracted little publicity.

The firm became known to the wider public in Ireland after the acquisition of the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 in 2000. The acquisition was successful and the Four Season Hotels in Prague, Budapest and Milan were added to the portfolio.

International recognition came in 2004 with the acquisition for a number of investors of the landmark Savoy and its associated London hotels for €1.1 billion.

The investors in this project included Riverdance producers John McColgan and Moya Doherty, and businessman Paddy McKillen. Mr Quinlan outbid Saudi billionaire prince Al-Waleed bin Talal for the trophy hotel group.

Mr Quinlan later sold the Savoy Hotel to the prince but kept the other hotels in the group, which was renamed The Maybourne Hotel Group.

Following this deal he attracted a flood of cash-rich Irish investors and major players in the UK property sector.

In 2007, he acquired budget hotel chain Jurys Inns for €1.165 billion.

Mr Quinlan also had a half-share in the Citibank tower in Canary Wharf, London - bought for £1 billion in 2007 - and another half-share of the head office of Spanish bank Santander in Madrid, which was acquired for €1.9 billion in September 2008.

Quinlan Private’s property assets under management grew to €4.2 billion in 2005.

Mr Quinlan said at the banking inquiry his “best recollection” is that the assets managed Quinlan Private grew about €10 billion from 2005-2008.

In America, the press dubbed him the “European realty tsar”.

In addition, Mr Quinlan had numerous personal investments worth millions in Ireland, which included his Edwardian family home in Shrewsbury Road, which he later sold for €7 million.

Mr Quinlan invested heavily in Ballsbridge and bought a pair of semi-detached houses also on Shrewsbury Road for reportedly €27 million in 2006. He also owned properties on Ailesbury Road and Eglin Road.

Overseas, his portfolio was extensive. He bought an eight bedroom and nine bathroom mansion with an outdoor heated swimming pool in Villa La Carriere in St Jean Cap Ferrat in 2006.

The 10,000 sq ft house is located on a cliff top in an area that is one of the most sought after locations on the Riveria. Mr Quinlan sold the property for about €65 million in 2011.

He also owned a luxury townhouse in Manhattan and offices in New York City.

However, things began to unravel in 2009 with the Irish economic crash and banking meltdown.

The global banking crisis led to plummeting property values across world markets. Mr Quinlan worked to find buyers for three principal investments to settle his huge debts.

In 2009 Quinlan stepped down as chairman and partner of Quinlan Private.

Mr Quinlan said in an interview with US magazine Vanity Fair last year about the long-running shareholder battle for the five-star London hotels Claridge’s, the Connaught and the Berkeley, that he did not intend to live in Ireland again.

“I don’t see myself living there again,” he said.

Property developers Joe O'Reilly, who developed the Dundrum Town centre, Sean Mulryan of Ballymore Properties, and Michael O'Flynn, the Corkman whose businesses exited the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) late last year, have also been called to give evidence to the inquiry.


Personal investments

* Co-investor in Madrid head office of Spanish bank Santander - purchased in 2008 for €1.9billion

*Co-investor in Citigroup tower in Canary Wharf, London - purchased in 2007 for €1.2billion

* Co-investor in Clarence Hotel, Dublin

* Property on the French Riviera resort of Cap Ferrat;

* Three houses on Shrewsbury Road in Dublin - two of which were purchased in 2006 for €27m;

* A former embassy on Ailesbury Road in Dublin - bought for €8.5 million in 2007

*A property on Elgin Road in Dublin

* A 13,000sq ft townhouse in Manhattan

* Offices on the Upper East Side in New York city

* An investor in five-star London hotels - Connaught, Claridge’s and Berkeley - and Quinlan Private investment transactions

Quinlan Private

* Jurys Inn budget hotel chain - purchased in 2007 for €1.165billion

* Chain of 47 UK hotels in Marriott hotel group - purchased in 2007 for £1.1billionn stg with Israeli partner Igal Ahouvi Group;

* Savoy hotel group (later renamed Maybourne hotel group) - bought in 2004 for €1.1 billion

* Diagonal Mar shopping centre, Barcelona - purchased in 2006 for €300 million

* Bank of Ireland headquarters, Dublin city centre - purchased in 2006 for €212 million with a partner

* Eircom’s new head office opposite Heuston Station in Dublin - purchased for €190 million

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist