Derek M Quinlan is an Irish businessman prominent in the field of real estate investment and development. A former tax inspector at the Irish Revenue Commission, he formed investment syndicates of high-net-worth individuals and to buy properties across the world. His principal investment vehicle was Quinlan Private, a private equity firm with offices in Dublin, London and New York. Quinlan's period of greatest prominence and success coincided with the peak of the global real estate bubble in 2004-7. In 2009, he resigned from Quinlan Private and moved to Switzerland to live in a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva owing huge sums. His loans have been transferred since to Nama (National Asset Management Agency of Ireland) which, in an effort to recoup some of the money, seized various assets, including his private collection of 16 paintings. In September, 2014, it was reported that he had reduced his debts by more than €3bn through a series of asset sales over the prior 5 years.
Early life and career
Quinlan was born in Dublin in 1947, the son of an Army Officer. He attended Blackrock College and University College, Dublin. He began his career as an accountant with Coopers & Lybrand before joining the Irish Revenue Commissioners as a tax inspector. In 1989 he went into private practice, founding Quinlan Private as an asset management firm for high-net-worth individuals. He specialised in investing in tax designated areas in the 1990s in Ireland supporting Irish government policy in relation to property renewal, regeneration and job creation.
In 2004, Quinlan headed an investment syndicate that bought The Savoy Group for £750 million, giving it control of landmark London hotels including Claridges, The Connaught Hotel and The Savoy Hotel. Quinlan outbid competing buyers, including Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Some months later, Quinlan sold The Savoy Hotel to the Saudi prince for £250 million, while retaining the other hotels in the group, subsequently renamed The Maybourne Hotel Group.
In 2006, Quinlan was investor in another syndicate that bought the Irish Glass Bottle development site in Dublin's Ringsend for €413 million. Anglo-Irish Bank was the principal lender. As of 2009, the site remained undeveloped and the value was written down to €60 million. In 2010, Anglo-Irish Bank's loan on the site was transferred to Ireland's National Asset Management Agency.
In 2007, Quinlan Private acquired Irish hotel chain Jurys Inns for €1.165 billion. Some months later, Quinlan obtained a €200 million investment in Jurys from the sovereign wealth fund of Oman, as part of a plan for further international expansion of the chain.
The financial crisis of 2007-2010 severely impacted Quinlan's business model, which was predicated on acquisition using maximum leverage. His Irish property assets in particular suffered precipitous declines in value.
In 2009 Quinlan resigned from Quinlan Private and moved to Switzerland to concentrate on negotiations with lenders to restructure his personal debts of €600 million. He personally owed Anglo-Irish Bank alone €300 million. Other major lenders included Bank of Scotland (Ireland), Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.
As of 2010, he was trying to sell assets, including his residences in Dublin, New York and Cap Ferrat.
In May 2010 Royal Bank of Scotland moved to repossess his yacht. In April 2011 a receiver was appointed on behalf of the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) to take charge of a number of properties owned by Quinlan, after he had failed to repay loans to the agency totalling hundreds of millions of Euros. In September, 2014, the Sunday Independent reported that he had reduced his debts by more than €3bn, the biggest single repayment of debt by a single borrower owed to the National Asset Management Agency and other banks. In October, 2014 the Irish Times reported that Quinlan was being sued by a former client of his at Quinlan Private. The case is being closely watched as further litigation may follow in its footsteps.
"When I started in this business, I quickly understood how the mathematics work, that you get as much leverage as possible, [and buy property] with a good covenant and a good location."
"The bears now tell us that there was too much debt in the market and that the economy is too polarised. The bears see no way out for Ireland. I do."
"If you don't believe in yourself then why should anybody else"
Quinlan has lived in Dublin, London and Switzerland but is now based in Abu Dhabi.
- Hipwell, Deirdre (4 March 2005). "Quinlan private". Property Week. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "Derek Quinlan slashes debts by €3bn through major asset sales". Sunday Independent. 7 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- "Quinlan Private Corporate Brochure" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- Stevenson, Rachel (20 January 2005). "Savoy hotel bought by Saudi prince for £250m". The Independent. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- Legal proceedings have been brought against property developer Bernard McNamara
- "Oil-rich Oman invests €200m in Jurys Inns". The Irish Times. 8 August 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- Derek’s debt mountain, The Times, 28 March 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Bank repossesses Quinlan’s yacht as Nama cracks down, The Times, 23 May 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Receiver appointed to Derek Quinlan, Newstalk, 14 April 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011.[dead link]