Belfast Telegraph

Barclays in rights issue bid

Billionaires want Ulster partner to help prevent hotel sale

The Barclay brothers, among the wealthiest businessmen in Britain, have called on Belfast-born developer Paddy McKillen to participate in a rights issue to put the Maybourne Hotel business - which owns Claridges - back on an "even keel".

A spokesman for the brothers said they were prepared to invest up to £200m in the Maybourne hotel chain, which is co-owned with Mr McKillen. This would mean the chain wouldn't have to sell off one of its three hotels to reduce debt.

"We would be willing to subscribe up to £200m and in that way, the group wouldn't have to sell any of its hotels," said the spokesman.

"Mr McKillen has every opportunity to participate in the rights issue."

The Barclays, who own the Daily Telegraph newspaper group and the Ritz Hotel, now control about 64% of the Maybourne hotel group (known as Coroin Ltd), with Mr McKillen holding 36%. Mr McKillen has claimed his minority interests are being suppressed and the Barclays are involved in a "corporate raid".

The two sides have clashed since Nama sold £700m of debt to Maybourne Finance earlier this year, a firm controlled by Frederick (right) and David (far right) Barclay.

However, a spokesman for the two billionaires said litigation by Mr McKillen was not good for the company as it created "uncertainty". He said: "There is nothing unfair about a rights issue."

He was speaking after a judgment in a London court which found that purchases by the Barclays earlier this year of a stake in Coroin Ltd, owned by Manchester businessman Peter Green, were not contrary to the shareholder agreement of Coroin and did not trigger other shareholders' pre-emption rights.

The Barclay Brothers' spokesman welcomed the decision, but said there was still a "long way to go" in litigation with Mr McKillen, saying: "Nobody wants to litigate, but we are confident of our case."

He said as long as Mr McKillen wanted to take legal actions, the Barclays would respond to these, adding: "We are happy to do so, we are assured of our legal position." He said the outcome over control of the group was "inevitable", but nobody was contesting that Mr McKillen remained a 36% shareholder and a board director.

He said the brothers' interests failed to understand Mr McKillen's strategy in relation to the loans held by the Maybourne business. He said Nama did not want to hold the loans anymore and, according to logical outcome of Mr McKillen's arguments, these loans would revert back to Nama.

"The issue is, how do you move a company forward that owns three lovely hotels ... hotels like these need investment," said the spokesman.

The chain owns the Connaught hotel, the Berkeley hotel and Claridges. Several Irish business figures have been investors in the hotels over recent years including Derek Quinlan, Moya Doherty and John McColgan. The chain originally also included the Savoy.