Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Lagan and family back Dublin tourism plan

By Fearghal O'Connor

Kevin Lagan and his family are set to make a €3m investment to breathe new life into a major new Dublin tourism project that is under construction but which had been placed in examinership.

The Vaults is an interactive venue featuring live action shows with historical characters such as Oliver Cromwell and Molly Malone and which is being built in an old school in Dublin's Liberties.

It's understood that since cost overruns emerged in recent months, The Vaults has been the subject of rival investment plans - firstly from Tayto Park owner Ray Coyle, followed by a plan involving an investment company controlled by the Belfast-based Lagan family, who sold their huge construction materials operation Lagan Group for £455m in April.

The Lagans have proposed an investment into Frontier Entertainment - which controls The Vaults - and this has been backed by the venue's two founding directors, TV and film veterans Paul Blanchfield and Gerald Heffernan.

The Lagan proposal has now been recommended to creditors by the company's examiner and Mr Coyle has said he would no longer pursue his interest in investing in The Vaults.

Blanchfield and Heffernan would have lost control of the business under the Coyle-backed plan, which had been supported by a third director, Barry Kenny. A financial consultant, Kenny rose to prominence 20 years ago as one of the backers of the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge. He had invested to become a 45% shareholder in Frontier.

Instead, Blanchfield and Heffernan put together the alternative investment plan, backed by the Lagan family, and this has now won the approval of the examiner.

The need for outside investment to complete the project - which is set to become the biggest employer of full-time actors in Ireland - had become apparent earlier in the summer.

The challenges of converting the old Victorian schoolhouse into a modern tourism venue had led to a construction overrun of €1.25m.

Mr Coyle was approached to invest in the business and an outline deal emerged that would have seen himself and Kenny take 75% of the business.

No agreement could be reached and a motion to place Frontier Entertainment into examinership was brought.

But Blanchfield and Heffernan have since brought the Lagan family onboard with their own proposal, now approved by the examiner and to be put to the court tomorrow for approval.

Belfast Telegraph