Belfast Telegraph

Quinn debt-hit golf course for sale

By Lindsay Fergus

A world famous hotel and golf resort - owned until recently by the Quinn Group - is to be put up for sale by its bank lenders.

The Belfry in the West Midlands, which has hosted the Ryder Cup, was snapped up by its former Irish owner in 2005 for £186m.

However, The Bank of Ireland, Barclays and Certus, formerly part of Lloyds Banking Group, have put the debt-ridden complex on the market.

Located in the countryside 11 miles from Birmingham, it comprises three golf courses and a 324-room hotel in 550 acres.

But the Belfry, where golfing greats including Tiger Woods have played, has notched up debts of £105m.

The Belfry has made no official comment about the sale that comes just eight months after a financial crisis engulfed the Quinn Group.

Its woes forced the complex into the hands of Anglo-Irish Bank and US insurance firm Liberty Mutual. Commercial property specialists Jones Lang LaSalle have reportedly been appointed to administrate the sale.

Business advisers Ernst and Young were called in to examine potential options for the site including a debt restructuring and sale. A Malaysian investor is understood to already have expressed interest in buying the property, but more parties are expected to come forward when the sale is officially announced.

The Quinn family, headed by bankrupt Fermanagh businessman Sean Quinn, had planned to carry out a £150m redevelopment before the property crash.

Since then Mr Quinn has seen billions wiped off his empire, then in April he lost control of his business, and last month controversially obtained voluntarily bankruptcy in Northern Ireland.

Last week his legal team failed to block an application by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) - formerly Anglo Irish Bank - to serve a bankruptcy petition in Dublin.

IBRC, to which Mr Quinn owes more than €2bn (£1.6bn), is trying to overturn the businessman's bankruptcy as a bankrupt can be back in business within a year in Northern Ireland, compared to 12 years in the Republic.

The Belfry became the headquarters for the Pro Golf Association in 1977. It has hosted golf's Ryder Cup four times. Europe won the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1985 - its first victory over the US in 28 years - and in 2002, beating the US there under the watchful gaze of former US President George Bush. Other famous visitors to its three courses, including The Brabazon, have included Sir Alex Ferguson.

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