US golf resort chief sues NAMA

THE chief executive of an exclusive American golf resort, formerly owned by Derek Quinlan, is suing the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) for his right to claim bonuses of $2.1 million (€1.55m).

James (Jim) Vanden Berg was hired by Mr Quinlan’s group in 2001 to manage the plush Georgia Club under the umbrella of the Barber Creek Land Company.

Earlier this year, this golf and residential complex was linked to $88m worth of loans taken out with Anglo Irish Bank, yet was sold in recent weeks for a cut price of $7m.

Mr Vanden Berg has said while Mr Quinlan’s Anglo Irish loans went into NAMA in 2009, he continued to do the job he was contracted to do and met all the targets to justify his bonuses. After what he said was a “stubborn and litigious” approach by NAMA, he has taken his case to a court in Georgia in a bid to secure his money from NAMA and Anglo Irish Bank.

The former employee of Mr Quinlan’s Barber Creek company took his case in September after he stopped receiving his salary which in 2011 was set at $276,000. This was supplemented with a $500-per-month car allowance. Mr Vanden Berg said he was also due an annual bonus of “at least” $125,000 for his work in 2010, which should have been released by April this year.

However, the bulk of his claim against NAMA and Anglo Irish Bank has related to his contractual entitlement to claim separate long-term bonuses that built up every year. These were due to be paid on January 1, 2012 and were linked to him meeting certain goals.

He produced company accounts and returns to the court as evidence that he delivered on what he was asked to do. Mr Vanden Berg said these long-term awards were worth at least $240,000 a year to him since 2002 and NAMA’s failure to pay them left him short by $2m.

The Georgia Club had loans taken out with Anglo Irish Bank which stood at $88m earlier this year. The case has appeared before the District Court in Georgia and last week NAMA signalled its intention to contest the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case. Last week both sides consented to ask the judge to allow NAMA and Anglo Irish Bank more time to provide a response.

Mr Vanden Berg’s complaint said NAMA had been the beneficial owner of the property and ran the business for its benefit and was therefore answerable to American law.

However, he claimed the agency’s effort to save money had compromised the ability of the Georgia Club to do business.

He said NAMA had sought “line-by-line” accounts of all money spent by the club and had instructed him to try to find a buyer for the resort. But he said the agency appeared not to trust him with vital business information.

He also said NAMA’s management policies had resulted in debts not being honoured and led to the inability of the resort to pay its staff or return deposits.

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