Johnny Ronan to spend €200m to redevelop Ballsbridge site

Site beside AIB head office sold for €67.5m on behalf of Nama and Ulster Bank

Property developer Johnny Ronan: acquired four vacant office blocks and surrounding land in Ballsbridge, Dublin, for €67.5 million. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Property developer Johnny Ronan: acquired four vacant office blocks and surrounding land in Ballsbridge, Dublin, for €67.5 million. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Irish property developer Johnny Ronan is understood to be planning a €200 million redevelopment of a site in Ballsbridge adjoining AIB’s head office.

Mr Ronan has acquired four vacant office blocks and surrounding land in front of AIB’s Bankcentre building, opposite the RDS grounds, on Merrion Road, for €67.5 million.

The near four-acre site was sold by a receiver on behalf of Nama and Ulster Bank. It had been acquired in 2006 by Carlow property developer Sean Dunne for a reported €200 million. It is understood finance for the transaction has been provided by Cardinal Capital Group, which is backed by Wilbur Ross.

Cardinal partnered with Mr Ross in 2011 in a consortium that participated in a €1.4 billion equity placement by Bank of Ireland. The deal kept the bank out of majority State ownership at the time. Cardinal and Mr Ross exited their investment in Bank of Ireland in 2014 with a handsome profit.

The Ballsbridge site is expected to be redeveloped as 250,000-300,000sq ft of office space. It is not clear if Mr Ronan will seek to redevelop the existing buildings or to remove the blocks and start afresh.

Application

A planning application is expected to be submitted either late this year or in early 2016. It is understood the offices can not be let to another bank, a condition stipulated by AIB during the original sale to Mr Dunne.

The prime location of the site and the size of the offices being planned should prove attractive for overseas multinationals and IDA clients seeking to either locate in Dublin or expand their footprint here.

The campus-style site may also appeal to US tech and digital media groups using Dublin as a European base.

Mr Ronan, who previously ran Treasury Holdings along with business partner Richard Barrett, formerly exited Nama earlier this year, having claimed to have repaid his personal loans in full. He has since been building a portfolio of projects to develop in the coming years.

Mr Ronan and Cardinal Capital were recently chosen as the preferred bidder to redevelop a site beside the Tara Street Dart station that is owned by state bus and rail company CIÉ.

They are thought to be planning a €130 million office tower rising to 22 storeys, making it higher than Google’s Montevetro building in Ringsend, which was also built by Mr Ronan.

In March, State company CIÉ hired Lisney to find a partner to develop an office scheme beside the Dart station. The site is on the opposite side of the Liffey to Siptu’s Liberty Hall.

Underbidder

Mr Ronan was also an underbidder on the Ballsbridge hotels site sold by Ulster Bank this week for more than €170 million to Chartered Land and the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund. His bid is believed to have been about €145 million for a 6.8-acre site formerly owned by Mr Dunne.

Mr Ronan, Paddy McKillen, Colony Capital and Development Securities recently signed a deal with German asset manager Union Investment to finance the development of an office block on Burlington Road, also in Ballsbridge. The consortium paid €40.5 million for the 1.7-acre site in 2014.