Belfast Telegraph

'Bad bank' takes over Smyth's art collection to pay debts

Nama looks set to become one of the biggest sellers of art this November at the annual auctions in New York and London after the agency took possession of property entrepreneur Noel Smyth's extensive art collection.

Nama and Smyth's companies have signed a memorandum of understanding and this involves giving Nama extensive charges over assets, including the art.

Mr Smyth is expected to sell some of his larger assets to pay down debts and he is fully co-operating with Nama. Mr Smyth's largest company is Alburn.

Meanwhile, Nama is preparing to sell the remainder of Derek Quinlan's collection in New York and London within weeks and if some of the Smyth works were also auctioned, Nama would be one of the largest single sellers involved in the auction activity, which normally takes place in November.

However, the Smyth collection is believed to include a large amount of Irish work, possibly opening up an opportunity for Irish auction houses to sell some of the work.

Irish auction houses were ignored for the Quinlan contract, with Christie's chosen by Nama as the sales agency.

That decision infuriated some Irish art figures.

However, Nama has claimed that its main aim is to get the highest price for assets and, in the case of the Quinlan art, the collection is being sold without Christie's taking its usual commission.

Mr Smyth has been centrally involved in cataloguing the art, which is understood to have been transported to Nama in recent days. Both sides used lawyers to agree contracts for the transaction.

This week Nama was forced to defend itself over who is handling the salaries paid to Nama developers, with two developers picking up €200,000 each.

The largest developers in Nama are Sean Mulryan, Joe O'Reilly and Treasury Holdings. None of these individuals or companies are prepared to disclose their salaries.