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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 28 January, 2020
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These are the people behind the deal that means time's up for Clerys

The store was put into liquidation on Friday by its new owners.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

WHEN MANY CLERYS staff turned up to work on Friday they thought they were about to be briefed on the iconic department store’s new ownership to a previously unknown company, Natrium.

Instead, they were greeted with the shock news the 150-year-old store was instead being wound up and they were all jobless – effective immediately.

As workers today took to the streets to protest the sudden closure, TheJournal.ie takes a look at the companies – and the people behind them – that were involved in the deal:

The firms

After much speculation about Clerys fate, Gordon Brothers Europe – the local restructuring arm of the Boston-based Gordon Brothers Group – announced on Friday it had completed the Clerys sale to the Natrium consortium.

That was done through the transfer of the department store’s parent company, OCS Investment Holdings.

0020CLERYS SIPTU rally copy Source: graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

According to the last accounts filed for that company, to the start of February last year, it had about €21.2 million of cash at hand, but debts of over €23.6 million due within 12 months.

It also had long-term debts of €20.9 million, which including bank debts of €15.6 million. Those loans were originally to fall due at the end of the year but they were extended by agreement to September 2016.

However the prime real estate site on O’Connell St and the store’s day-to-day operations were tied up in two separate forms - OCS Properties and OCS Operations.

The operations company recorded a loss of over €2 million for the previous 12 months, while the property company booked a profit of just under €5 million.

0011CLERYS SIPTU rally copy Source: graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

It was OCS Operations, which was set up in August 2012 when Gordon Brothers took over the business, that was put into liquidation on Friday, spelling the end for the Clerys department-store business and the jobs of the 460 workers based there.

Its last accounts, also to February last year, noted it was sitting on net current assets of over €2 million at the time and the figures were prepared on a “going-concern basis” because of the loan repayment restructure.

This should enable the company to meet its debts as they fall due,” the accounts said.

0053CLERYS SIPTU rally copy Source: graphy: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

But the High Court was told on Friday it was unlikely to have enough money to make payments due as early as this week and liquidation was the best option to preserve the value of the business.

As recently as September 2013, Gordon Brothers said it wasn’t considering selling the business, with its European head Frank Morton telling the Irish Independent it was focussed on opening for Christmas after flooding hit the store.

Meanwhile OCS Properties, also set up in August 2012 during the takeover, remains in business.

In February last year it was sitting on total assets of over €20 million. It has been suggested the store could now be turned into anything from a hotel to a luxury mall.

0093CLERYS SIPTU rally copy Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The people

Natrium, a joint venture between the firms D2 Private and funds controlled by London-based Cheyne Capital Management, has yet to file any accounts as it was only incorporated two weeks ago. Cheyne also has offices in New York, Switzerland and Bermuda.

Natrium’s directors are Deirdre Foley, 43, John Skelly, 47, and Ronan Daly, 48, who all have addresses listed in Dublin.

Foley Deirdre Foley

The two men are the directors of a string of other companies including several Cheyne investment funds, while UCD graduate Skelly is also the director of investment firm the Carne group, which has operations in Dublin, London, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands among other locations.

Foley has a long-running history in the Irish property industry including several years with Quinlan Private, the investment vehicle of developer Derek Quinlan.

Hotels court case Derek Quinlan Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive

She left the company before it began to fold under a mountain of debt during the financial crisis.

Quinlan, who left Ireland for Switzerland and then Abu Dhabi, at one stage owed Anglo Irish Bank and other lenders an estimated €3.5 billion through various arms of his empire.

Foley is now the sole owner of D2 Private, which she set up in 2005 with developer David Arnold.

It was also hit during the financial crisis as property prices plunged. The firm and a consortium of investors including former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick lost a reported €72 million on the sale of London’s Woolgate Exchange Building in 2012.

Woolgate-11 London's Woolgate Exchange Building

According to D2′s website, Foley has been directly and indirectly involved in property deals worth about £3 billion.

READ: Clerys workers to stage daily protests outside landmark store >

READ: A landlord was made to pay €3 million to Revenue for not properly declaring tax >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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