Myers set to buy Imry off Barclays

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The Independent Online
One of Britain's leading property developers is set to cash in for a second time on the company that forced Barclays Bank to write-off a record pounds 200m, victim of the biggest-ever default on a property loan.

Martin Myers is planning to buy Imry, one of the best-known property developers to spring up in the late-1980s property boom, from Barclays, eight years after netting pounds 15m from its sale to a heavily indebted company backed by the bank. Barclays was left owning Imry after Marketchief, the company to which it lent pounds 200m at the peak of the last property cycle, collapsed.

As well as the pounds 15m he made in 1989 when he and fellow developer Martin Landau sold Imry for pounds 314m to Marketchief, Mr Myers has struck a secret deal with the bank which will give him a further unspecified payout on the final unwinding of Imry, which he has managed throughout the various phases of its ownership. It is understood he will receive that incentive even if he himself is the ultimate buyer of the company.

If Mr Myers is successful in his bid to buy what remains of Imry after the sale last month of most of its assets to Rodamco, a Dutch property company, he may stand to make a third fortune from the company if he is successful in building it up and selling or floating it on the stock market.

The proposed deal would give Mr Myers control of a planned pounds 250m shopping centre development in Southampton, that has yet to be built, and an investment portfolio worth an estimated pounds 118m. Last month, Imry's other assets, including the Shires shopping centre in Leicester and Distillers House, an office block in Hammersmith, were sold to Rodamco for pounds 249m.

Barclays, which has always made clear that it was only holding Imry for resale under the management of Mr Myers, was originally negotiating a sale of the whole of Imry to Rodamco, but Chris Bartram, head of the Dutch company's UK arm, pulled out only hours before the signing of final contracts.

He is understood to have had second thoughts about the value of the Southampton development. Chelsfield, another potential buyer of Imry, also pulled out of negotiations after due diligence on the Southampton site.

A Barclays spokesman would not comment on any incentive payments it plans to make to Mr Myers on the final disposal of Imry nor on whether it was negotiating a sale to him. The bank simply said it was no longer in discussions with Rodamco, which was rumoured to have re-opened negotiations over the Imry assets it failed to buy last month.

The imminent resolution of Barclays' Imry problem will bring to an end one of the bank's most embarrassing loans. When Imry was sold to Marketchief it was making profits of only pounds 22m but Barclays was prepared to lend pounds 200m to an acquisition vehicle that required upwards of pounds 50m a year simply to service its debts.

When the assumptions on which Marketchief was premised - falling interest rates and rising asset values which would allow disposals to fund debt repayments - failed to materialise, the company went under. It had been set up with just pounds 5m of equity and more than pounds 300m of debt.

Barclays was the most active bank in the fevered property lending market of the late 1980s, specialising in so-called relationship banking in which it backed such individuals as Gerald Ronson, of Heron International and Speyhawk's Trevor Osborne.