Belfast Telegraph

The Northern Ireland tycoon behind London’s swankiest hotels

By Linda Stewart

Reclusive Northern Ireland property developer Paddy McKillen faces the full glare of the media spotlight this morning as the battle for control of some of London’s most exclusive hotels begins.

The Belfast-born investor’s long-awaited bid to reverse Nama’s sale of €790m (£657m) in loans associated with the Maybourne Hotel Group kicks off at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in an action that promises to run for a number of weeks.

The rarely-seen property tycoon is challenging the decision by the Irish state’s so-called ‘bad bank’ to sell the Maybourne debt to the billionaire Barclay brothers.

The lucrative and coveted portfolio includes treasures such as Claridge’s, the Berkeley and the Connaught hotels.

“Everybody wants those hotels,” according to Edmund Nourse, counsel for the Barclay brothers at a recent pre-trial hearing.

Such is the desire of Mr McKillen to wrest control of the hotels from the Barclays that, according to sources, he has “steeled himself” to break the cover he has maintained for years.

“Paddy has an absolute aversion to publicity and the press.

“He is a businessman who just wants to get on with his business. He has absolutely no time for self-promotion,” the source said.

“The attention the case will attract will be uncomfortable for him, but it’s a price that he’s willing to pay to protect his interests and the hotels he loves.”

The publicity-shy investor faces an interrogation from four different legal briefs representing the interests of the Barclay brothers, directors of the Maybourne Hotel Group associated with the Barclays, Dublin financier Derek Quinlan and Nama.

A prominent feature of the case will be the extent of Mr McKillen’s wealth and his ability to fund a counter-bid to the Barclays to take over the €1bn (£832m) hotel group.

It’s understood his personal and family assets include an art collection worth £20m, mansions in California and a home in the centre of London, along with a vineyard called Chateau La Coste.

The investor keeps a low profile when at home in Foxrock in Dublin, but drives classic Porsches when abroad and uses a Citation private jet. He has more than 100 interrelated companies, making his true financial position difficult to tease out.

However, the probe into his finances appears to be strengthened considerably by the direction given by Mr Justice Richards in a judgement on February 28 in which he ordered the Belfast businessman to disclose all documents relating to the possible raising of finance for the purchase of Mr Quinlan’s shares in the Maybourne Hotel Group.

But the judge acceded to a request from Mr McKillen that the information would only be made available to lawyers for the defendants rather than the defendants themselves.

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