Shrewsbury Road home changes hands in one of 2021’s biggest property sales

Marlet chief Pat Crean pays more than €11m for ‘Lissadell’ on the exclusive Dublin 4 road

Lissadell: 9 Shrewsbury Road is the new Dublin home of the property developer Pat Crean. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Lissadell: 9 Shrewsbury Road is the new Dublin home of the property developer Pat Crean. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Dublin 4’s Shrewsbury Road has cemented its reputation once again as the most prestigious residential address in the country following the sale of one of its houses for more than €11 million.

While the details of the off-market transaction have yet to appear on the Residential Property Price Register, The Irish Times understands that the property developer Pat Crean has acquired Lissadell, at 9 Shrewsbury Road, from the Northern Ireland-born investment banker Martin Shields and his wife, Francesca McWilliams.

Shields and McWilliams acquired the detached Edwardian home from its previous long-term owner, the prominent solicitor Anne Neary, for €6 million in late 2012, and transformed the 343sq m (3,700sq ft) property over the next several years, tripling it in size to its current 1,096sq m (11,800sq ft).

Although the ambitious refurbishment saw the preservation of the original house, it now forms part of a much larger structure, both above and below ground, that includes a swimming pool, staff accommodation and wine cellar, along with a freshly designed and newly configured room layout throughout.

The Edwardian-style mansion has five bedrooms arranged over two floors, with formal reception rooms and a circular garden room downstairs.

The sale of Lissadell is understood to be among the most valuable residential property transactions to have taken place in the Irish residential property market so far this year. The off-market deal is understood to have been brokered by Simon Ensor of Sherry FitzGerald.

Pat Crean, Lissadell’s new owner, is best known as chief executive of Marlet Property Group, a company that has in recent years come to the fore as one of the country’s most prolific developers of offices and apartments aimed at Dublin’s fast-growing private rental sector.

Among the major office deals Marlet has been associated with are the development and sale for €240 million of the Sorting Office, in Dublin’s south docklands, to the Singapore-headquartered Mapletree Investments and the redevelopment and €150 million sale of Charlemont Exchange to the South Korea-based fund Vestas Management.

In terms of its residential property business, Marlet is assessing offers in excess of €1 billion from a number of parties for its Castle residential platform, a portfolio of about 2,000 high-end rental apartments and duplexes it intends to develop across six sites in Dublin between now and 2024.

Crean’s arrival on Shrewsbury Road is just the latest changing of the guard on a thoroughfare where the fortunes made and lost by current and former residents have never been far from the news. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, the road was home to some of the country’s biggest property developers, investors and businesspeople, including the erstwhile “baron of Ballsbridge”, Sean Dunne, the Redquartz chief Paddy Kelly, the financier Derek Quinlan, the then AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson, and the entrepreneur Niall O’Farrell.

Today the sought-after stretch counts the businessman Denis O’Brien among its homeowners, while the billionaire financier Dermot Desmond’s Celtic Trustees is completing a substantial new house on the site of Walford, the property that sold for a record €58 million to the developer Sean Dunne’s then wife, Gayle Killilea, in 2005.

The Dunnes’ former home, Ouragh, has been transformed by the aviation leasing tycoon and Avolon chief executive Domhnall Slattery since he acquired it, for €5.6 million, in 2017.

Number 9’s previous owner, Martin Shields, became the subject of much media attention in the summer of 2019 when his involvement in a complex derivatives trading scheme while working in the City of London propelled him to the centre of a major criminal trial in Germany. Shields (43) and another former banker, Nicholas Diable (41), went on trial for 34 instances of serious tax fraud between 2006 and 2011.

While the case was described by the French newspaper Le Monde at the time as the “robbery of the century” and by Dutch media as “organised crime in pinstripe suits”, the Banbridge-born banker sought to explain the so-called cum-ex scandal in more benign terms when giving evidence in the case.

Shields, a maths prodigy at school and engineering graduate of Oxford University, told the regional court in Bonn how he and his fellow scientists had been tasked by the banks that recruited them with maximising profits, with little or no regard for the legal consequences of their actions.

Commenting on the way in which he and others had set about achieving this, he said: “One tool to achieve this goal was tax optimisation: avoiding taxation as far as possible – and taking advantage of any opportunities that could be found or created. This was not the clandestine approach of a few. Rather, I saw it as the clear and openly communicated expectation of most major banks and their customers.”

Shields, the key defendant in the case, told the regional court in Bonn that “cum-ex trades” had been practised on an “industrial scale” in the first decade of the 21st century, and involved an extensive network of banks, companies and professionals such as lawyers and financial advisers.

Shields and Diable helped the court uncover crucial details of the strategy.

In March 2020 the Bonn court gave both of them suspended prison terms. The verdict was brought forward by several weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. Shields got a suspended sentence of a year and 10 months, the term prosecutors had asked for, and must repay €14 million. Under German rules, causing a tax loss of €1 million would usually carry a prison term with no possibility of a suspension.

The court also seized €176 million from MM Warburg Group, the profit the private lender made from deals. Most transactions under review at the trial had a link to the Hamburg-based bank. The court’s ruling was expected to open the door to even more cases from prosecutors, who are investigating more than 600 people.

“We are pleased that the court’s ruling has acknowledged the extent of his cooperation, vital contribution, and his willingness to accept both responsibility and make good the harm he has done,” Shields’s attorney, Hellen Schilling, said after the verdict. Diable’s sentence of a year was also suspended.