Clerys sale: the seller, buyer, liquidators, consultants, and concessionaire

Who’s who in the sale of iconic department story


Gordon Brothers

The two main Gordon Brothers executives who were directors of


are Malcom MacAulay, a veteran financial expert who sources say is often to be found at the InterContinental hotel on Park Lane in London, and

Rafael Klotz


, a branding expert based in the firm’s hometown of Boston.

On June 11th, on the eve of the transaction, MacAulay as director of OCS Operations signed off on a set of accounts for the company that said it expected to sell it as a "going concern". Hours later in the middle of the night he was present in the offices of A&L Goodbody solicitors to sell it to Natrium, which then promptly flipped it on to an insolvency practitioner.

Klotz had less of a hands-on role with Clerys than MacAulay, but he takes a keen interest in all aspects of the firm’s business in Europe even though he is based across the Atlantic.

The firm hired an Irish public relations firm to represent its interests in the run-up to the transaction, but it has since gone back into its shell and has ignored all entreaties for comment.



Natrium’s figurehead is 40-something Dublin developer

Deirdre Foley

, a Sligo farmer’s daughter who now lives on one of the most desirable roads in Ranelagh. A qualified accountant, she previously worked with

Derek Quinlan

during the hectic early years of the boom. She later joined forces with developer

Dave Arnold

, before a fallout, following which she took control of their D2Private firm in 2013.

She has developed a reputation as a tough deal-maker and is said to be phlegmatic about the criticism which comes her way over Clerys. She is also thought to have carried out much of the due diligence for the deal personally.

One source said he saw her going in and out of Clerys financial department repeatedly for up to two months before the €29 million deal was triggered in June. About 80 per cent of Natrium, however, is controlled by UK firm Cheyne Capital Management. It is essentially a hedge fund and specialises in property debt, corporate credit, high yield bonds and shares. It does not appreciate the publicity the Clerys deal has brought.

Natrium has taken most of the public flak so far for the way the Clerys deal played out for workers and taxpayers, but it may get a publicity reprieve if it can push through a major job-creating redevelopment project.


Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG

Wallace is probably the closest thing there is to a celebrity accountant in Ireland, if such a thing exists. Due to the incessantly high-profile nature of his appointments, the insolvency practitioner has rarely spent more than a day or two out of the business pages in recent years. That’s what being appointed as liquidator to the morass that is IBRC gets you, as well as a stint for the Government reviewing loan sales concerning companies such as Siteserv, although this process later became mired in controversy.

Richardson, who is often unfairly viewed in the media as Wallace’s sidekick, is known within the industry as a heavyweight restructuring expert in his own right. Richardson has been more prominent than Wallace in the Clerys saga. He was the man, for example, who delivered the news to the Clerys workers that their jobs were over and statutory redundancy would be their lot. The liquidators are expected to utilise their powers as officers of the court to examine a range of transactions at Clerys operating arm prior to it folding. They will liaise with a committee of creditors, whose representatives include concession owners, a Siptu official, and a civil servant.


Simon Smith, Sue Dunn and Dominic Prendergast

The three UK-based consultants, who don’t all work together in one firm, effectively ran Clerys on the ground for Gordon Brothers.

Their fees were paid by OCS Operations, which also picked up their travel and hotel tabs - they usually flew into Ireland for three nights a week.

The Morgan Hotel in Temple Bar was said to be a favourite haunt of theirs.

Prendergast was styled as managing director of Clerys, although he was never listed as a director of OCS Operations in the Companies Registration Office.

He runs the Oxford Summer School, a British retail training institute.

Smith, who has extensive experience in the high-street fashion business, ran the commercial operations of Clerys. He has previously worked at Levi Strauss and the company that once owned the Firetrap and Full Circle brands.

Smith operates through a consultancy called Discern Consulting and Trade. He was last month parachuted in by Gordon Brothers to run the struggling British fashion brand Ben Sherman.

Dunn took care of the marketing department of Clerys on behalf of Gordon Brothers. She was particularly active in attracting new concessions to the store after its 2013 revamp following flood damage that summer.

She emailed concession holders in the wake of the liquidation saying consultants had no advance warning of the closure.


Lorraine Sweeney

Sweeney, who owns a broad range of catering and hospitality businesses, cut her teeth in business as a protege of industry legend

Paddy Campbell

in the 1980s. A graduate of

Cathal Brugha

Street college of catering, she left

Campbell Catering

about 25 years ago to go out on her own.

She ran the cafes at Clerys since the early 1990s, and also runs the cafe across the road at the Eason bookstore, as well as Beshoffs fish and chip shops. Sweeney also owns a number of hotels, including the Summerhill House Hotel in Enniskerry and the Esplanade on Bray seafront.

She is a vocal advocate for small business owners, and also previously served on the board of Hibernian Insurance. Along with her property developer husband Jarlath Sweeney, she is active in charity work in Ethiopia, where she is said to visit regularly.

Sweeney has chosen to fight the liquidation of Clerys operating arm, and says she will file a legal case. She is demanding that the holders of some of the other assets connected to Clerys, including the property company, be forced to pool resources in order to defray the debts of creditors, staff and taxpayers.