Barclay brothers consolidate control of key London hotels

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The Independent Online

The Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph Media Group and the Ritz, have tightened their grip on Claridge's, the Connaught and the Berkeley luxury hotels in London, after buying more than €800m (£695m) of debts owed by their parent company, Maybourne Hotel Group.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who already own 60 per cent of Maybourne's equity, are thought to have gained close to 100 per cent ownership after buying loans made to the group by two Irish banks to fund the acquisition of hotels in 2005.

The loans, which were secured against the Maybourne Hotel Group, were made when it was controlled by Derek Quinlan, the Irish tax inspector-turned-property tycoon who has since fallen on hard times and has sold his stake to the Barclay Brothers.

The debt was sold to the brothers by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), the Irish "bad bank" which manages billions of pounds of risky loans made by Ireland's lenders at the height of the boom.

Nama, which acquired the loans in June last year from Anglo Irish and AIB, said it received 100 per cent of their original value plus interest. The acquisition of the debt ends months of wrangling by the Barclay Brothers, who also own the Cavendish hotel in London and The Spectator magazine.

Nama has bought €71.2bn of assets from the Irish banks in the past 18 months and expects to take on another €1.9bn by theend of the year. It plans to sell about a quarter of these in the next two years.

Brendan McDonagh, the chief executive of Nama, said: "Loan sales will form a major part of our strategy going forward, now that we are almost through the debtor business plans and now that we've gleaned considerable knowledge about the assets and the debtors."

Nama has acquired €600m of assets relating to the US and €30bn relating to the UK and Europe.

The market value of the UK property portfolio Nama now controls was €8.2bn in November 2009, according to its annual report for 2010.

However, the value is expected to have fallen since then in a difficult market for real estate.