Mansfield's Citywest Hotel placed into receivership as going concern

 

JIM MANSFIELD’S high-profile Citywest Hotel, conference centre and golf complex in Saggart, Co Dublin, has been placed into receivership by Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

The bank yesterday appointed Martin Ferris of Ferris Associates as receiver to HSS, which trades as the Citywest Hotel, Conference Centre, Leisure and Golf Resort. The appointment also includes the assets of Jeffel, a land-holding company.

The large Citywest site includes 1,712 bedrooms, two golf courses, two conference centres and a helipad. It has been the subject of much controversy in recent years with Mr Mansfield frequently locking horns with planning authorities over his expansion plans for the site.

Dalata Ltd, a hotel operating company headed by former Jurys Doyle chief executive Pat McCann, was appointed yesterday to run the hotel and its other facilities.

Dalata recently picked up similar work at the Portlaoise and Killenard Heritage hotels in Laois. Mr McCann also runs the Maldron three-star chain of hotels.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Ferris said that he intended to continue trading the business as a going concern. Citywest’s 400 staff will continue to be employed by the business.

Mr Mansfield could not be reached for comment.

Mr Mansfield built Citywest from scratch over the past decade, establishing it as the venue for the Fianna Fáil ardfheis and making it a regular host for GAA functions.

In recent times, it hosted the exhibition of artefacts salvaged from the Titanic. It has also hosted the Irish Masters snooker championship and a World Grand Prix darts tournament.

Rumours of financial difficulties at Citywest have circulated for some time but Mr Mansfield, who is 71, had consistently brushed them aside.

At the end of June, he told the Sunday Independentthat he was in talks to sell Citywest to a US firm for a reputed €1 billion.

In January 2008, Mr Mansfield told The Irish Timesthat his property portfolio has been valued at €1.7 billion. This was before the collapse in the Irish property market.

His holdings comprised more than 2,250 acres of land in Dublin and Kildare, including Citywest Hotel and golf resort in Saggart, the Weston aerodrome near Lucan, the West Park Hotel in Dublin and the PGA national golf course at Palmerstown House in Kildare.

It emerged recently that Mr Mansfield had sold both his helicopters – an Augusta 119 and Bell 206. He also recently failed in an attempt to turn farm buildings at Weston into aircraft hangars. This was his latest planning setback at the aerodrome in recent years.

In June, his son James jnr lost his application for a stay on summary judgment orders for €6.32 million by AIB against him and others over unpaid loans to buy and develop lands in Meath.

MANSFIELD PROFILE WAR MACHINERY MAGNATE TURNED AMBITIOUS DEVELOPER

“COLOURFUL” IS the polite adjective often used to describe Jim Mansfield, the 71-year-old businessman whose ambitions for his land holdings around the Kildare/Dublin border have sometimes led to unorthodox practices.

While he made his fortune selling machinery left over after the Falklands War, Mansfield did not become a household name in Ireland until 1994, when he bought, for an estimated £1 million, the lands that would become the massive Citywest development.

His colourful relationship with the planning authorities began when he undertook construction of a conference centre on the site which was subsequently refused planning permission in 2004.

A legal battle continued before the project was eventually granted retention by An Bord Pleanála four years later.

He clashed with planners again following his purchase of nearby Weston aerodrome in 2000, for €13 million, which he began to modernise without full planning permission. Again he applied for retention in 2005.

This year An Bord Pleanála dealt a blow to his plans for a hotel, residential and leisure development, including a golf course at Palmerstown Demesne, when it turned down the application for the third time in 10 years.

While the Citywest Hotel has been a popular venue, particularly for Fianna Fáil ardfheiseanna, other aspects of the development have been less successful.

Plans to convert an empty shopping centre into the Citywest Institute of Education came undone when Saudi authorities denied they had agreed to send hundreds of students to the college.

Mr Mansfield’s wealth had this year been estimated at more than €120 million, €70 million less than last year.

OLIVIA KELLY