Galway developer Luke Comer has purchased Courtown Demesne, a classic Georgian mansion on 400 acres of prime development land in Kildare for a sum of about €10.2 million – a 90 per cent discount on its original sale value. The country estate outside Kilcock, which is one of the best-located tracts of land in the greater Dublin area, went on the market in 2006 asking €120 million, equivalent to almost €300,000 per acre.
Following the crash it was relaunched to the market in 2011 asking €21 million and the price dropped back to "over €10 million" in 2012 before it was finally purchased through selling agent Knight Frank in recent days. It's unclear whether the historic estate, one of the finest in the State, has been acquired for Comer's personal use or as part of Comer Group's (the business he operates with his brother Brian) ongoing spending spree on large tranches of land in Dublin and its environs.
Certainly its location close to the M4 interchange and the fact that the entire property is zoned under the Co Kildare Development Plan 2011-2017 holds significant commercial appeal. Courtown Demesne comes with planning permission (due to expire in 2016) for a 90-acre high-tech business park, a 125-bedroom hotel, 72 holiday homes and an 18-hole golf course.
Luke Comer – who lives between the UK and Monaco – was unavailable for comment on the purchase yesterday.
Courtown is yet another high profile purchase at a substantial discount that will add to the Comer brothers’ impressive and growing portfolio around the greater Dublin area since 2010. This includes Kilternan Hotel and Country Club on 300 acres in the Dublin mountains. Built by the late Hugh O’Regan for about €170 million, it was purchased by the Comers at a 96 per cent discount for about €7 million last August and is due for completion shortly.
Not far away from Courtown on the Kildare-Dublin county border, the Comers paid €8 million in 2013 for the Palmerstown House Estate and golf course on 668 acres formerly owned by the late Jim Mansfield. The same year the Comer Group paid €22.5 million for the infamous two-acre development site in Ballsbridge which Ray Grehan purchased for €171 million at the peak of the property boom. They also purchased the Gemini portfolio for €75 million which included 640 apartments in Dublin and Cork and the 48-bedroom Glashaus hotel in Tallaght.
Proximity to the Curragh
The Comers, originally from Glenamaddy in Galway, grew an estimated €2 billion business in the British and German property markets before turning their attention to heavily discounted commercial properties here following the downturn.
Courtown Demesne's location in the heart of thoroughbred racing country and its proximity to the Curragh will have particular appeal for Comer – who's well regarded as a racehorse trainer and owns about 70 racehorses and a stud farm in Dunboyne, Co Meath (Comer Group sponsors the Irish St Leger race at the Curragh). The estate would be ideal for training and breeding purposes, and in recent months before US billionaire John Malone emerged as the buyer of nearby Castlemartin Estate for €26.5 million – the former home of Sir Anthony O'Reilly – the Comer name had been linked to the deal.
The beautiful five-bay Georgian house is a classic estate home with gates at Kilcock and Courtown. The original house was destroyed in the 1798 rebellion and the current house built by the Aylmer family. The estate was famously rented by film director John Huston in the mid 1950s where he is said to have entertained such Hollywood luminaries as Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne.
It’s a vast house of 1,250 sq m (13,454sq ft) with rooms arranged over three levels of the main house and a wing. The current owner, solicitor Brendan O’Mahony has lived there with his family since 1981. The land has been in pasture for years and the estate run as a stud, equestrian and beef farm. As well as two gate lodges, the sale includes a swimming pool, a farmyard, out-offices, stables and courtyards, a polo yard and a thatched cottage.