Former Derry GAA stars Seamus and Henry Downey are selling four of the former Botanic Inns pubs they snapped up in a surprise deal three weeks ago, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The Downeys, who both played when Derry won their only All-Ireland senior title in 1993, are negotiating the sale of Ryan's and the Parador in Belfast, Denvir's Hotel in Downpatrick and Molly Brown's in Newtownards.
They paid £4.3m for a portfolio of seven former Botanic Inns bars, which had a total guide price of £4.675m. Their winning bid was understood to have been £1m more than the next highest offer.
The brothers were not available for comment yesterday on their plans for the pubs, which were all part of Botanic Inns company Kurkova Ltd, put into administration in May.
Administrator John Hansen of KPMG said he had "no comment" on the proposed break-up of the group.
But one observer in the trade said the brothers could be "making sure they have their ducks in a row" by lining up a buyer for some pubs in the group before they take possession of their new properties on November 19.
Another said: "A lot of this will have been done on a handshake and on trust."
Getting rid of the four premises will leave them able to concentrate on the most sought-after pubs – Belfast city centre's Apartment, Kitchen Bar and McHugh's. They had guide prices of £600,000, £550,000 and £1.3m respectively.
There were four bids for the seven-strong portfolio – two of the remaining three bids had been made by Tennent's NI and Fortuna Group, and the third was from unknown property investors.
Ulster Bank appointed administrators to the Botanic Inns group – comprising Botanic Inns Ltd and Kurkova Ltd – as it collapsed this year under the weight of debts of around £14m.
The Downeys are well-known in Derry for their GAA success. Henry was captain and centre-back in Derry's All-Ireland winning team in 1993, and Seamus was full-forward in the same team. They are also seasoned publicans, and own the Sugar Nightclub in Derry and Downey's Bar in Magherafelt. Both men are trained teachers.