Superquinn’s future ‘in property’

Brian O’Mahony, Chief Business Correspondent

Bernard McNamara has been a leading name in the development of the Irish property market since the days of the Celtic Tiger.

His role as a developer is well known. He has completed some of the biggest and most complicated construction projects in Dublin and other parts of the country.

The Elm Park development on Merrion Road, Dublin 4 is one of the largest undertaken in recent years and is worth E250 million.

The 102,193 sq m (1.1 million sq ft) scheme will include 330 apartments, 30,658 sq m (330,000 sq ft) of offices and an eight-storey hotel and private hospital at the front of the site.

It includes the Tara Towers hotel, bought for E14 million, which will have 60 rooms added to bring the total number to 160.

Headlines yesterday describing the group as a retail consortium are therefore wide of the mark.

Apart form the new chief executive of Superquinn, Simon Burke, all other backers have direct or indirect links with property in Ireland. Mr Burke has a long history in British retailing. In 1987 he joined Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and took over its retail division two years later.

In 1999, he joined Hamleys, the British toy retailer, which he went on to sell to private investors four years later.

Since then he has been involved in private equity deals.

As for the others, David Courtney and Bernard Doyle are property consultants.

On the finance side are David Cantrell and Kieran Ryan, while Gerry O’Reilly has been a long term partner of Mr McNamara’s.

With one exception, Superquinn owns 19 of its operational sites and the investment potential to develop many of those is believed to be high in the view of the new investors.

Up to 10 new stores are planned over five years, but the potential for existing sites in terms of significant upscaling may be the real ncentive that brought in the new team.

If fully exploited, other key retailers could be attracted in enhancing not only the property values but the throughput of the Superquinn stores as well.

If adequately developed under the new ownership as a sitting tenant, Superquinn cold prove attractive to other non-food outlets.

Superquinn has struggled for years against the might of Tesco, Musgraves and Dunnes Stores.

This latest move could give the retail chain the leverage it has lacked up until now, and the success of this approach could ensure the Superquinn name and ethos lives on.

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