Bidders for the jewel in Cork’s €20m tourism crown came from India, Taiwan, the US, Europe, China, and Cork — with a Chinese family, the Kangs, yesterday coming up trumps.
The Cork harbour island estate went to tender last week, with around a half dozen international and Irish bids received by joint agents Cohalan Downing and Colliers, acting for Nama and receivers PWC.
Fota went to the altar with other Chinese suitors prior to Christmas, with a sale agreed and a match trumpeted, but it was not consummated — so it was back to the dating game for the profitable tourism and golf product which earns €10m a year in income and has good occupancy levels.
Maurice Cohalan, of Cohalan Downing, acting jointly with Colliers International, said the sale had generated 200 enquiries and 84 parties followed up an interest. “We were pleasantly surprised at not only the number, but the quality and diversity of these enquiries,” said Marcus Magnier of Colliers about the competitive bids process.
Several members of the Kang family, headed by five or six siblings, who over-nighted in Fota for the contract signing yesterday, had stayed in Fota Resort several times before as regular guests. “They fell in love with Ireland, with the greenery, the open space and the easy lifestyle,” said Conor Pyne of accountancy firm O’Connor Pyne, which acted for the Kangs.
A formal statement issued for the Chinese buyers said they were “looking forward to working closely with the excellent team at Fota Island Resort as well as with the membership of the golf club” where there’s 27 holes, and a golf academy. The course has twice hosted the Irish Open.
Resort general manager Jonathan Woods said news of the deal “is a great day for the resort, for Cork and region”. The complex employs up to 250 in a part and full-time basis, with about 80 permanent jobs.
The new owners want to strengthen links with Fota island’s other inhabitants, the Wildlife Park and the period Fota House itself, with Fota visitor numbers averaging 400,000 a year, as a top tourism draw.
The sale will mark the end of a period of receivership at Fota, developed by the Fleming Group at a reported cost of up to €90m after buying it in 2004 from the Mahony family. All bookings will be honoured “and the family will get on with further developing the hotel and finishing the remaining lodges immediately”, said Mr Pyne.
Adviser Michael Cronin, who visited the Kangs in Beijing, said a Kang family priority would be urging the Government to ease restrictions on tourist visas from China to Ireland. “It would be very valuable to the country, as so many Chinese can’t get a visa to see how good it is here, and what opportunities there are,” he said.
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