Russian billionaire investor, Elena Baturina, is on course to more than double her investment in Dublin's Morrison hotel, as she closes in on its sale to a UK consortium for more than €65 million.
The boutique hotel on Dublin's quays is on the verge of being bought by UK financial investors, who are being advised by David Webster, the former general manager of the five-star Powerscourt hotel in Enniskerry, Wicklow. It is believed that a sale has been agreed between both sides, although due diligence is still taking place and the deal is not yet closed.
Ms Baturina, who is one of the richest women in Russia with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $1.3 billion (€1 billion ), bought the hotel from Nama in 2012 for a bargain €22 million. The State agency took control of the hotel after it acquired the loans of its developer, the late Hugh O’Regan. The John Rocha-designed 145-bed property was the first hotel sold by Nama after the crash.
When it first opened in 1999, the hotel was quickly viewed as a symbol of the new, buzzy image of Dublin that emerged in the early years of the Celtic Tiger. Along with the U2-owned Clarence hotel directly across the river Liffey, it was one of the first design-led, boutique hotels in the city. Its Halo restaurant was at that time considered to be one of the best eateries in Dublin.
After snapping it up on the cheap nine years ago, Ms Baturina subsequently pumped close to €10 million into a revamp of the property. It currently operates as a Doubletree, a luxury four-star brand owned by Hilton. In recent years, Ms Baturina’s investment group took about €4 million in dividends from the Morrison, leaving her with a healthy overall return on her Irish investment.
Recently-filed accounts for Swift Row, the hotel’s management company, show it had sales in 2019 of €13.1 million, while it turned a profit of €2.2 million. Ms Baturina’s investment company, which also owns properties in Austria and Russia, was paid €1.5 million in dividends in 2019.
Ms Baturina, the wife of the late former mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, decided to sell the hotel early last year. The timing was unlucky, however, as it was brought to the market with a guide price of about €80 million right as the pandemic hit, badly affecting the hospitality sector. The Morrison sale will be among the first major transactions in the sector since the virus arrived.
The impending sale of the Morrison may soon be followed by another significant Dublin hotel deal, according to several sources. The 160-bed Moxy Dublin City hotel, on Sackville Place just off O’Connell Street, is also for sale in an off-market sales process. It is expected to sell for about €35 million.
The hotel is being sold by the wealthy Swiss Spitzer family. It was previously co-owned with the Tetrarch group before the Spitzer's Midwest Holding group bought out its former partner. It is believed that the sale of the Moxy is not as advanced as the Morrison, but several parties have run the rule over the property.