Chinese mogul to snap up Fota Island for €20m

The fourth richest man in China is on the brink of a €20m-plus deal to buy the prestigious Fota Island Golf and Hotel resort in Cork.

Chinese mogul to snap up Fota Island for €20m

Documents are due to be signed this week between Nama, the receiver, and Beijing-based Reignwood Group for a sale of between €20m and €22m for the 500-acre resort.

The Chinese conglomerate has registered a trading company in Ireland, Fota Investment (Ireland) Ltd, in recent weeks.

Reignwood Group chairman Chanchai Ruayrungruang is poised to gazump other well-heeled bidders with a late move for the estate, flying in from Beijing on his private jet to run the rule over the property.

Mr Chanchai is a Thai-Chinese businessman who founded Reignwood almost 30 years ago, and owes a large part of his fortune to having the exclusive importation rights in China for the Red Bull energy drink.

With Nama due to sign off this week, the deal brings to an end a high-stakes race to purchase one of the crown-jewel resorts in this country after the collapse of the Fleming Construction Group in 2010.

A local consortium jousted with international speculators in recent months for the purchase. In September, a wealthy Thai businessman, Andrew Yau, emerged as the front-runner, and was seen around the hotel and golf club several times with his management team, but appears to have been overtaken at the 11th hour.

Sources believe the purchase of Fota by Reignwood will trigger a huge investment in the property, especially the golf aspect of the resort’s portfolio. Mr Chanchai has already expressed a desire to bring the Irish Open back to the resort. Fota staged the second of its Irish Opens a decade ago.

Reignwood enlisted Jack Nicklaus to develop its Pine Valley golf course outside Beijing. The facility, which has hosted World Golf Championships and Johnnie Walker Classics, has lured some of the world’s top celebrity golfers, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Diego Maradona.

Fota is being sold on behalf of Nama, via Colliers International and Cohalan Downing, for receivers PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Colliers’ Marcus Magnier has described it as “one of the most important and well-known resort properties to be offered to the market”, adding that its sale will represent a true test of the strength of the quality hotel and leisure market.

“Fota stands out not just for its pedigree but as it is a well-run trading entity, turning in a healthy profit,” said Mr Magnier.

The resort was developed at a cost of over €90m by developer John Fleming, who bought in 2004 from its original owners, the Mahony family. Included in the sale are 60 rental holiday houses, with some high-end properties overlooking the 10th fairway still unfinished.

It has a turnover of more than €10m a year.

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