Millionaire who wanted to buy Apollo House would make offer again

Ken Peterson offered €7.5m for vacant office building after reading homeless occupation

The Home Sweet Home group left Apollo House on Thursday 12th January in compliance with a High Court order. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The Home Sweet Home group left Apollo House on Thursday 12th January in compliance with a High Court order. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

An Irish-American millionaire who offered to buy Apollo House so it could continue to be used to accommodate homeless people would make the same offer again in similar circumstances.

Ken Peterson, chief executive of Columbia Ventures Corporation, told The Irish Times he decided to offer about €7.5 million for the vacant office building after reading about its occupation by Home Sweet Home.

“My understanding was that there was a large increase in homeless people and the Dublin authorities were having problems because they could only offer short-term accommodation and people wanted somewhere longer to stay. So I thought, ‘Well maybe if we bought the building it could be used to provide accommodation for the people.’”

Mr Peterson was speaking from Washington State, in the United States, where Columbia Ventures Corporation, the parent company of Dublin-based Magnet Networks, is based.

Mr Peterson explained he is in Dublin several times a year, that he is aware of the growing housing crisis and that he has “employed hundreds of Irish people over the years.

“I also have a family connection to Ireland going way back. My grandparents’ parents were from Westmeath and Down.

“I talked to a board member at Magnet Networks, Brian Reilly, about Home Sweet Home. He spoke to them and he was involved in the details. The offer of €7 million seemed like a fair price for the building.

“Then as far as I understood they were in discussions with the Government and they seemed to be getting things straightened out.”

Asked whether he would offer to intervene to help alleviate the housing situation again, he said: “Homelessness is not unique to Ireland. I don’t know everything about the Irish situation.

“I am not an Irish citizen and I do not want to prescribe what needs to be done. But I am interested in creative ideas, in making situations better and in being a good neighbour.”

Asked if he would make the same offer to help if homeless people were in a building and they believed there was nowhere else to go, he said: “Yes”.

Mr Peterson said he was involved in philanthropic projects in the US, including donations to his the university from which he graduated in 1980, the Willamette University’s College of Law in Oregon and supporting healthcare research.

The HSH group left Apollo House on Thursday 12th January in compliance with a High Court order granted to the receivers, Mazars, in December. They had been there for 28 days.