Fitzwilliam buys €140m of Arnotts’ loans
British retailer Selfridges believed to be providing financial backing to Fitzwilliam
Fitzwilliam Finance Partners Ltd, an investment company led by solicitor Noel Smyth, has bought €140 million worth of loans owed by Irish retailer Arnotts to Ulster Bank.
The Ulster Bank deal, which closed only very recently, puts Fitzwilliam in a strong position to bid for total control of the iconic Dublin city centre department store with the support of Selfridges. Arnotts’ other loans are held by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) which are being sold off by the State-owned bank’s special liquidator KPMG.
The deadline for bids for the IBRC loans of about €230 million in two tranches is today.
Fitzwilliam has already been pre-cleared by KPMG to bid for these loans by showing it has the financial firepower to do with backing from Selfridges.
About seven serious bids were considered by Ulster Bank for its loans including an approach from its existing management with the support of an as yet unnamed London-based financial backer.
Fitzwilliam and Selfridges are understood to be committed to the Arnotts brand and hope to increase its employee numbers by investing in the existing 170-year old store and expanding into the site around it.
Arnotts controls a prime five-acre site facing on to Henry Street in Dublin, which was before the property crash being prepared to be turned into a new quarter of the city.
Nigel Blow, Arnotts’ chairman, who is fronting his own bid, contended last month that he believed any Selfridges involvement in the acquisition of the department store “can’t be the right thing for the consumer or the company”.
Mr Smyth, the founder of Fitzwilliam Square-based solicitors Noel Smyth & Partners, is a veteran investor in retail and property.
In 1987 he was involved in the consortium which bought the H Williams supermarket chain and he was later an investor in the Square shopping centre in Tallaght.