Gresham in surprise Jurys bid

THE mystery surrounding the unsolicited bid for Jurys Doyle Hotel Group resolved itself yesterday.

It emerged that the owners of the Gresham Hotel Group were behind the surprise swoop on the publicly-quoted group.

Further clarification emerged when a spokesman for the Jurys Doyle Group denied any member of the Doyle or Beatty families were involved in the offer group.

A spokesman for the Gresham Group yesterday confirmed that the Bryan Cullen-led consortium which took the Gresham Hotel Group private last year is behind the takeover approach.

In another twist, it has emerged that the consortium has secured the backing of the Doyle family members who sold their chain of hotels to Jurys some time back to form the Jurys Doyle Group.

Combined, the three daughters of the late hotelier PV Doyle own more than a fifth of Jurys' shares.

According to analysts their support could prove crucial to securing the bid down the line.

In a separate development the Irish Stock Exchange is to investigate trading in shares in the hotel group before it announced it had been the subject of a takeover approach. The Jurys Doyle Group, is the largest hotel group in Ireland, and its share rose by 15% adding €138m to the value of the group in less than a week. Estimates suggest the Gresham syndicate will have to pay over €1 billion if they are to succeed in getting their hands on the hotel chain.

For the record Jurys Doyle owns some of the best known hotels in the country. These include the Berkeley Court, Jurys Ballsbridge and The Towers on a seven acre site in Dublin.

That prime land site would be worth €200 million if turned into apartments.

Some analysts have been saying for some time that Jurys looked like a prime takeover target given its significant land bank in a key up-market location like Dublin's fashionable Ballsbridge.

As speculation of a bid surfaced last week, shares rose 10% over two days. By Monday the company announced it had been targeted by a prospective buyer and the stock shot up by another 5% on the day.

This significant share price splurge has precipitated an examination of the pre-bid share buying by the Takeover Panel and the Stock Exchange who will closely examine the dealings in the weeks ahead.

However, that is standard practice when shares show a sharp and sudden rise prior to takeover moves being disclosed. Jurys Doyle shares were up another 90c to €15.10 in Dublin yesterday afternoon, a gain of over 6% before falling back to €14.80 in later trading for a gain of 4.23%.

Mr Cullen is partnered by solicitor David Coleman and Wexford hotelier and builder JJ Murphy.

Mr Cullen is managing director of Jackson Homes and held 66% of the company that bought the Gresham Hotel chain for €117m last year.

Mr Coleman, of Dublin-based solicitors Lavelle Coleman, and Mr Murphy each held 16.5% of the bidding company which was backed by Anglo Irish Bank at the time.

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