End of an era as developer O'Hare sells Quays Shopping centre
Entrepreneur Gerard O'Hare - who built the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry and has been listed as one of Northern Ireland's richest people - has stepped aside after selling it along with another key retail asset, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Mr O'Hare (60) developed the Newry shopping centre in his role as chief executive of Parker Green International.
Now he has sold his interest in both the Quays and sister shopping centre Fairgreen in Carlow in the Republic of Ireland to an unidentified purchaser.
It's understood his exit is part of an agreement with the company's funders, concluding just weeks after the Quays unveiled a multi-million pound extension anchored by Marks & Spencer.
Pure Gym has also opened up in the extension, while the first phase of the centre is anchored by Sainsbury's and Debenhams.
The move marks the end of an era for Dr O'Hare, who is also deputy chairman of economic development agency Invest NI. He's expected to expand into estate agency after acquiring PJ Bradley Estate Agents and Curran Associates Chartered Surveyors, now trading under the brand of Bradley NI.
Parker Green International is also expected to continue its development of a new Iceland supermarket in Newry's Monaghan Street. Loans taken out by Parker Green International had been part of the Northern Ireland portfolio of loans absorbed by the Republic's bad bank, Nama. The portfolio was then sold by Nama to US fund, Cerberus, in the £1bn Project Eagle deal in 2014.
In 2015, Parker Green International refinanced with Garrison Investment Group in New York and Earlsfort Capital in Dublin.
In September last year, financial statements for Parker Green for the year ending December 2016 noted that the loans were due to be repaid by January, but that the repayment depended on the properties in the group being sold, “which has not occurred”.
The company said at the time it would not be selling its best-known assets — the Quays and the Fairgreen in Carlow.
While Parker Green International did not wish to comment on Dr O’Hare’s departure, one source said the entrepreneur “has played a major part in establishing Newry as a prime commercial and retail-driven centre over the last 30 years”.
He was credited with involvement in the development of Buttercrane Shopping Centre — the city’s first shopping centre before the opening of the Quays in 1999 — as well as the Old Creamery Retail Park on Monaghan Street.
“These centres now offer an eclectic mix of over 150 national and international retailers that any city would be proud to have, attracting up to 15 million visitors per annum.”
The source said there were 5,000 jobs in Newry which would not have existed without Dr O’Hare’s “private investment” over the years.
He added: “Dr O’Hare was also president of the Newry Chamber of Commerce from 1999 to 2002 and was the catalyst in securing city status for his home town as well as leading the campaign for early euro trading when the Republic of Ireland joined the eurozone in 2000.”
New openings at the centre in recent months include Superdry, Sostrene Green and Smiggle.
In the 2013 Sunday Times Irish Rich List, Dr O’Hare was listed at number 52 with a wealth of £152m.
But that was a fall on the sum of £220m which was put on his wealth by the Sunday Times in 2010.
He was one of a number of entrepreneurs associated with the city of Newry, including First Derivatives founder Brian Conlon and Lord Ballyedmond, the late founder of veterinary medicine firm Norbrook Laboratories.
Dr O’Hare is also a brother of Eamon O’Hare, the boss of Newry-based construction giant O’Hare & McGovern.