The owners of the Galgorm Resort & Spa are buying a landmark Belfast property with a view to transforming it into a hotel.
The Hill family from Ballymena, also the former owners of the nearby Ten Square Hotel, are investing in the Scottish Mutual building in Donegall Square South after it was put on sale by the Republic's toxic bank, Nama.
The six-storey building, which has five shops on its ground floor, had an asking price of £1.75m.
A Galgorm Resort spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the Scottish Mutual Building in Donegall Square, Belfast, has been acquired by the Hill family from Galgorm Resort and Spa."
The price has not been revealed.
Scottish Mutual had been part of the property empire of Co Tyrone developer Peter Dolan and his Jermon group.
A new company, Bedford Hotel, was registered by the Hill family at Companies House, suggesting the hotel could be named after Bedford Street on which part of the building is located.
The Hill family owned the Ten Square Hotel in the city centre until 2008,when they sold it to Co Down developer John Miskelly.
Mr Miskelly last month issued a winding-up petition against Botanic Inns Limited over unpaid rent of £60,000 on its Ormeau Road HQ.
CBRE, the agency marketing the Scottish Mutual Building, yesterday refused to comment on the purchase.
Meanwhile, Nama said it made a "commercial decision" to support the rebirth of six Botanic Inns pubs employing 300 people.
Belfast venues the Botanic Inn, King's Head, the Elms, Madison's, the Northern Whig and the Fly are remaining open under the management of Botanic Inns group MD Stephen Magorrian through the Horatio Group.
The move was announced this week after negotiations involving Nama and a deal with administrators. KPMG were appointed administrators by Ulster Bank to two companies in the group – Botanic Inns Ltd and Kurkova Ltd – last week.
Botanic Inns Ltd – now rebranded as Horatio Group – owned the six businesses but not the buildings. Nama was landlord of the pubs for two years after the company which owned them went into administration.
A Nama spokesman said: "Nama made a commercial decision to support this transaction."
KPMG yesterday refused to give details of the purchase by Horatio Group but on Monday night said the deal had the backing of "various stakeholders".
Colin Neill (below), chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said: "It is great news that around 300 jobs have been saved and some of Belfast's most high-profile pubs will continue to trade.
"This is not only good for the industry but vital for the economy here in Northern Ireland.
"We are optimistic that the remaining pubs and jobs will be saved in the not too distant future, given the quality of the outlets."
Mr Magorrian was not available for comment last night.