When the global financial crisis burst Ireland’s property bubble from 2008, the sudden credit drought left thousands of apartment projects unfinished, or caught them at the point when developers had substantially completed them but not yet sold the homes to individual buyers.
In the traditional, owner-occupier Irish mindset, this was a failure. Heavily indebted developer-owned properties with nobody in a position to raise a mortgage to buy and move into them, or use them as buy-to-let investments for their family’s nest egg, appeared to have no future.
For anyone with experience in home building outside Ireland, however, this looked like a massive opportunity. Entire apartment blocks were available to create a new private residential sector (PRS), as industry jargon has it.
For the highly mobile workforce still pouring into the Dublin and Cork offices of multinationals, renting was a natural choice. Irish people who could no longer buy homes would join them eventually.
Someone just had to dare make that bet in an economy still going through the shock treatment of the EU-IMF bailout programme. Kennedy Wilson was first.
This is the story of every apartment bought or built in Ireland by the US firm and its co-investors, as told through hundreds of documents they have released over the past decade.
Navigate the map below, open it in full screen or keep reading for the full list of properties. “Read more” links from the map will open in a new window, just close it to return to the map.
Among the many receivers appointed in the wake of the property crash by various creditors to carve out the empire assembled by developer Liam Carroll (since deceased), Paul McCann of Grant Thornton represented Ulster Bank. The lender held security over a prized asset in the Dublin Docklands, the old gasometer structure on the Gasworks site, which Carroll had turned into 210 one and two-bed apartments and renamed Alliance.
The iconic glass-fronted building, with a direct walkway to Google’s European headquarters, was a symbol of Ireland’s jump from a coal-fired, Dickensian past straight into the digital age of the Celtic Tiger era.
Kennedy Wilson snapped it up for €40 million in June 2012, its first-ever acquisition in Ireland. Initially leveraged with Bank of Ireland debt, the property was refinanced in 2015 with a mortgage from the US insurer MetLife.
The initial Alliance deal also established the joint-venture model Kennedy Wilson would use for most of its Irish investments, in this case, a 50-50 partnership with one of its shareholders, the Canadian investment house Fairfax.
Capel Developments, the firm controlled by Liam Kelly, John O’Connor, and Edward Keegan, had completed a 119-apartment and office complex on the former site of the National College of Ireland in Ranelagh in 2006, before the crash caught up with it. By 2012, Nama and bank-appointed receivers were scrambling to disperse its assets and recover debts.
Savills put the Sandford Lodge property on the market, advertising it as fully let. The rent roll at the time was €2.1 million and Savills’s asking price was €26 million. Kennedy Wilson, allied to Fairfax, emerged as the winning bidder with a €27 million offer in October 2012.
The US buyer reported the deal as an “all-cash acquisition” and included the property in its 2015 refinancing deal with US insurer MetLife. More recently, Kennedy Wilson obtained planning permission in 2021 to knock down the two smaller buildings on the site, currently divided into four homes, and replace them with a denser group of 36 terraced houses.
It has since contracted Glenbeigh Construction to build out this extension. When completed, it will grow Sandford Lodge to a total of 150 homes.
For more than 25 years, there have been plans for a landmark Dublin tower at the junction of the Liffey and Dodder rivers and Grand Canal Dock. The fact that Kennedy Wilson ended up being the one developing it as part of the complex now known as Capital Dock tells the story of prized property assets in the capital in a nutshell.
Before plans for the competing U2 Tower and Dunloe Ewart projects both died in the twilight of the Celtic Tiger boom, developer Liam Carroll had secured control of rival firm Dunloe Ewart in 2002. This came with the south docklands site, one of the many properties dispersed by Nama and receivers to Carroll’s empire a decade later.
By 2012, an office building fully let to US investment bank State Street had emerged on Sir John Rogerson Quay, but 3.5 acres remained undeveloped. That was when Ulster Bank pounced, appointing receivers to loans secured on the property as part of a wider move against Carroll businesses.
In December of that year, a 50-50 joint venture between Kennedy Wilson and its Canadian partner Fairfax bought the debt, which they said had a principal balance of €120 million outstanding. Less than five months later, the new creditors foreclosed on the entire property, which then appeared on their books valued at €108.5 million.
Kennedy Wilson, however, reported that this valuation included a $30.1 million gain “in excess of the basis of the previously held mortgage note,” suggesting that the new owners had in fact paid less than €90 million for the debt securing them the property. Fairfax described the purchase as “perhaps the finest office building in Dublin, built in 2009 and 100 per cent leased to State Street Bank for 25 years, for one third of its construction cost with an unleveraged yield of approximately 8.5 per cent”. Not that the deal itself was unleveraged – the SPV established for this acquisition reported borrowing €52.8 million at the time.
In 2014, Kennedy Wilson brought in a third partner to develop the vacant section of the site. This was the state’s bad bank Nama, which was in control of the final strip of land at the confluence of the three waterways. By contributing its property, Nama increased the size of the project to five acres and obtained a 15 per cent stake. The newly branded Capital Dock development was placed in a fund managed by Kennedy Wilson.
It obtained planning permission in 2015 for seven buildings combining 370,000 sq ft of commercial space, across three office buildings and restaurant and retail units, with 190 apartments including those in the 23-storey tower overlooking the river, now the tallest building in the Republic. Construction was ready to start, with Sisk as the main contractor.
In 2017, US bank JP Morgan forward-purchased one of the office buildings, 200 Capital Dock, and the online recruitment firm Indeed leased the other two for 20 years at an annual rent of €11.9 million. Although the sale price for the 130,000-sq-ft 200 Capital Dock was never disclosed, Kennedy Wilson reported receiving instalments totalling €108 million for that deal across 2017 and 2018, with a residual value cleared upon delivery of the building in 2019 suggesting total receipts of around €114 million.
Over the same period, Kennedy Wilson booked in the region of €80 million in costs to develop 200 Capital Dock, with the difference contributing to fund the wider project along with its owners’ equity and debt from Deutsche Bank.
By the end of 2018, they declared Capital Dock complete, reporting a €350 million total investment in the project. Accounts filed in the US show that around two thirds of this sum went towards developing the office blocks and one third towards the residential buildings. The initial cost of land was deemed nearly negligible, booked as a €5 million asset in a footnote to the State Street building purchase.
In 2019, with office rent flowing in from Indeed and tenants beginning to move into the high-rise apartment complex, Nama and Fairax exited Capital Dock. A fund managed by the French insurance and financial services group Axa bought them out of a 50 per cent stake, and Kennedy Wilson acquired the rest of their investment to bring its own share from 42.5 to 50 per cent.
Fairfax reported a €53.6 million share of profit on the “sale of investment property in Dublin, Ireland” from a Kennedy Wilson joint venture in 2019. As Capital Dock was the only Fairfax divestment from a Kennedy Wilson joint venture reported that year, we can estimate from the Canadian firm’s 42.5 per cent stake that the office blocks occupied by Indeed and the residential portion of the project had returned a €126 million profit for its investors based on its valuation upon completion. This came to €53.6 million for each of Kennedy Wilson and Fairfax, and €18.9 million for Nama.
For a while, Capital Dock’s expensive apartments were slow to find tenants and the project was criticised for hoarding accommodation as the housing crisis deepened. An online search in early March, however, returned only one apartment available to rent in the complex, a two-bed home for €3,580 per month.
In 2013, Jersey-based Irish developer David Kennedy was under pressure from his lender. Bank of Scotland was pursuing him in the High Court for personal guarantees of €7.5 million he had given over debt raised to develop the former Clancy Barracks site in Dublin’s Islandbridge suburb. Receivers appointed by the bank had taken over the company established by Kennedy to build out Clancy Quay, a mixed-use development combining hundreds of apartments and commercial space.
When they put the property up for sale, agents Savills detailed how a first phase of 420 apartments was nearly complete, with more than half already let and a rent roll of €3.17 million expected to rise to €6.8 million when fully occupied. An 8.46-acre adjoining site had planning permission for another 323 homes along with a hotel, creche, and shops.
The guide price was €70 million but Kennedy Wilson ended up paying €82.5 million in July 2013 after Savills reported interest from 10 domestic and international bidders. The US developer never owned Clancy Quay on its own. The project was always a 50-50 joint venture. Kennedy Wilson’s initial co-investor was the Canadian investment firm Fairfax.
The new owners built out the 163 apartments and houses planned in phase two and, upon completion in October 2017, refinanced the debt they had raised for their construction with a €45 million loan. Land registry records show that Bank of Ireland has had a charge secured on the site since Kennedy Wilson came in in 2013.
The developers then proceeded with phase three, adding units along the way to end up with a total of 877 homes at Clancy Quay in 2020, Kennedy Wilson’s largest Irish residential development to date. Along the way, Fairfax sold its 50 per cent interest to Axa in 2018.
Development costs since the initial purchase are understood to have totalled around €250 million.
After Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett’s Treasury Holdings group completed the Alto Vetro tower on the quays of Grand Canal Dock in 2004, the 16-story apartment building won the Silver Medal for Housing. The jury appointed by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland described Shay Cleary Architects’s work as “simple, yet not easily comprehended and complex as a result”.
A few years later, this appraisal became applicable to the financial situation of the Treasury Holdings subsidiary that owned the building. In 2011, it reported that its rent roll was shrinking, pushing the Alto Vetro’s valuation down from its €13 million booked development cost to €10.7 million, against debts of €15.5 million.
The shortfall was simple. Its unwinding, among many other Treasury Holdings developments, was complex.
Nama took over the Anglo Irish Bank loans that had funded the Alto Vetro and, in January 2012, appointed receivers to it. It took PwC’s William O’Riordan and Declan McDonald another two years to find a buyer. On March 3, 2014, the receivers reported selling the 26-apartment tower for €11.5 million.
The buyer was Kennedy Wilson, initially on its own. The Alto Vetro then became part of a portfolio refinancing the US firm negotiated with Bank of Ireland in 2017. Between 2019 and 2020, the tower gradually moved into Kennedy Wilson’s expanding joint venture with Axa, where it has sat as a 50-50 investment ever since.
When Nama sold the Central Park campus, previously developed by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett’s Treasury Holdings, in March 2014, much of the attention focused on the acquisition of the larger office section of the Leopardstown property by Green Reit. Yet Kennedy Wilson was in on the deal, too, purchasing its residential portion for €82 million. The US firm placed the asset in its newly listed European business Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate (KWE).
The site was ideally located, literally on the Luas platform at the Central Park stop and within walking distance of blue-chip employers in the Sandyford business district. Blocks F and L had been completed by Treasury Holdings in 2008. Apart from nine apartments and a creche sold individually, they formed a group of 272 homes with 96 per cent occupancy and a €3.8 million rent roll, along with seven shops and a restaurant on the ground floor.
KWE continued an ongoing programme of refurbishment, which it reported yielded an average 25 per cent rent increase. The new owner then completed the partially built Block K, adding 166 apartments, funding the €44.9 million development costs from its own cash. By the end of 2016, the European unit of Kennedy Wilson had completed the project, filled 72 per cent of the new apartments with tenants and repaid the debt incurred at the time of the site’s acquisition with cheaper group bonds.
Once stabilised and rebranded as Vantage, the final 442-apartment complex gradually entered Kennedy Wilson’s joint venture with Axa, ending up in a 50-50 ownership split between the two partners since early 2020.
When a fire destroyed the Liffey Trust enterprise centre on Dublin’s Sheriff St in 2002, the charitable organisation decided to leverage the potential of its site to rebuild a better home for the local businesses it was supporting. Above its premises, a joint venture with private investors would build several floors of modern rental apartments to pay for the reconstruction.
A subsidiary of Anglo Irish Bank ended up as the owner of the 81 apartments and, when the Government decided to liquidate the terminally crippled bank in 2013, the residential floors needed to find a new owner again. In June 2014, Kennedy Wilson placed a successful €14.8 million cash bid on the property.
The US firm immediately placed it in its newly formed listed vehicle Kennedy Wilson Europe, which reported that all but two apartments were occupied and the rent roll from the complex was €725,000.
Kennedy Wilson remained the sole owner of the Liffey Trust apartments for four years, until the property entered its 50-50 joint venture with Axa. In 2021, the apartments became part of a debt deal with Bank of Ireland.
In July 2014, Kennedy Wilson Europe announced the acquisition of UIster Bank debt secured on the assets of developer Mark Elliott, a member of the Cavan family behind the P Elliott historic construction business. At the time, he owed the bank €202.3 million. The London-listed unit of the US firm snapped up the loans for €75 million.
The debt was secured on 17 properties, most of them small, but three prized assets accounted for 90 per cent of the portfolio: the former Irish Times building on Dublin’s D’Olier St; the Lakelands retail park in Cavan; and 136 apartments in block B and C of the Herberton rental complex in Dublin 8, a legacy of Elliott’s participation in the public-private partnership to redevelop the Fatima Mansions social housing estate.
KWE reported converting the collateral of the Times building and Lakeland retail park to direct ownership in 2015, and increasing revenue at the commercial properties through “improved leasing”. Both were sold the following year ahead of the European vehicle’s de-listing, with €78.5 million realised for Kennedy Wilson by the end of 2016.
This left Herberton. Rather than securing direct ownership of the apartments, Kennedy Wilson Europe had transferred the former Ulster Bank debt to a Luxembourg vehicle, which in turn appointed a receiver to Elliott’s vehicle for the property.
According to Dublin City Councillor Máire Devine, who raised issues about fire safety standards in the apartments last December, Kennedy Wilson offered the apartments to Dublin City Council in 2019 in lieu of including a mandatory portion of social housing “in the prestigious Clancy Barracks or the Docklands”. The sale closed in August 2020, with a €32 million price tag entered on the Property Price Register. Kennedy Wilson recovered the funds through the debt channel.
This brought the total proceeds from sales of Elliott properties to more than €110 million – a €35 million gross gain on the price Kennedy Wilson had paid for the loans.
Leisureplex – The Cornerstone
Among the constellation of Treasury Holding companies placed into receivership by Nama, one of Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett’s vehicles had AIB-originated debt secured on the Leisureplex site in Stillorgan until the state’s bad bank made its move in 2012.
Kennedy Wilson was keen to get its hands on the property, having already acquired the Stillorgan shopping centre across the street. As soon as its winning €15.3 million bid was accepted in early 2016, its London-listed unit Kennedy Wilson Europe highlighted what it described as the site’s “high-profile redevelopment opportunity offering complementary uses to our existing asset”.
The 1960-era bowling alley, however, was still operating under a lease granted to its former owners, businessmen brothers Colum and Ciaran Butler. They were not for moving, claiming the right to maintain the bowling alley’s tenancy until Kennedy Wilson secured a High Court judgement against them in 2020.
The bitterness of the four-year legal battle may have something to do with KWE’s purchase of debt secured on the Butler-owned Gardner House in 2015, which gave it possession of the city centre office block at a €20 million loss to the Butlers.
Just like Treasury Holdings and the Butlers before it, Kennedy Wilson wanted to demolish the Leisureplex and replace it with something more lucrative. The new owner went to An Bord Pleanála in 2019 and obtained planning permission for a strategic housing development of 232 apartments in five blocks of four to eight stories. The project also includes two shops and four restaurants or cafes totalling 20,000 sq ft of commercial space.
Following the 2017 absorption of KWE into Kennedy Wilson, the US investor reported full ownership of the Leisureplex project, which it later renamed the Cornerstone. Then, in 2021, it became part of the firm’s 50-50 joint venture with Axa, where it still sits today.
At that point, with planning secured and the Leisureplex vacated, contractors led by John Paul Construction cleared the site and embarked on the new build, which is due for completion next year.
With a round of the works paid for, Kennedy Wilson’s latest estimate of development costs stands at €131 million in addition to the initial land purchase.
The Zoe Group branch of Liam Carroll’s development empire completed the 124-apartment North Bank building in 2007 on Dublin’s Sheriff St in the north Docklands. Within two years, the group was in trouble and Carroll applied for examinership. Having failed that, he attempted to place related companies in liquidation.
Their lenders disagreed and went after their secured assets instead. In October 2009, Nama appointed David Carson of Deloitte as receiver to North Bank’s holding company on foot of a loan originated by Bank of Ireland at the time of its construction.
Carson held on to the property for eight years, until December 2017. At that point, Kennedy Wilson reported purchasing it from the receiver for €45 million. Three quarters of the apartments were occupied at the time. None of them are available to let now.
In 2018, North Bank was among the initial properties placed into Kennedy Wilson’s new 50-50 joint venture with Axa. Later that year, the apartment complex served as a springboard for the acquisition of the rest of Carroll’s Docklands City Block 3 from the same source and with the same partner. The surrounding land is now being developed under the Coopers’ Cross brand.
The Grange site in Stillorgan was partly developed by Ray and Danny Grehan, until Nama took over the debt issued by AIB and Bank of Ireland to finance the project and appointed receivers to the Grehan brothers’ company Glenkerrin in 2011.
On behalf of the state agency, the receivers completed ongoing construction works, sold some apartments individually and collected rent on others. With the recovery in full swing, they put the property up for sale in 2018, along with an adjoining undeveloped piece of land.
By the end of that year, receivers had realised €153 million from the sale to the newly formed joint venture between Kennedy Wilson and Axa. The new owners had acquired 274 apartments across the existing complex and immediately got down to work on building more.
In 2019, they secured planning permission for 287 apartments in four blocks, a creche and shared spaces for tenants including a gym and a cinema. Accounts filed in the US show that this project was initially estimated to cost €94 million, of which €12 million was already spent in 2018, representing the relevant portion of the land acquired that year. This total cost had ballooned to €160 million by the end of last year.
As this extension was under construction by John Paul, last June, Kennedy Wilson obtained planning permission to develop the final corner of the site, adding another 102 apartments in a 10-storey block at the junction of Stillorgan Road and Brewery Road. If built out, this would bring the Grange complex to a total of 663 homes, second only to Clancy Quay in Kennedy Wilson’s Irish portfolio.
When developer Michael O’Flynn’s group completed Cork’s 17-storey Elysian tower in 2008, it was the tallest building in Ireland. Until the proposed Custom House Quay tower gets built, the Elysian remains the highest structure in the city.
It is, however, no longer O’Flynn’s property. AIB loans secured on the 206-apartment complex and its 67,600 sq ft lower retail and office floors transferred to Nama in 2011. Then Blackstone bought a billion-euro slice of O’Flynn loans from Nama in 2014, including the Elysian’s.
The New York investment firm enforced multiple securities over the following months and its subsidiary Carbon Elysian Ltd reported securing full ownership of the complex in late 2015 at a €77 million valuation.
In April 2018, Kennedy Wilson paid €87.5 million for the Elysian. At the time, the buyer reported that 98 per cent of apartments were occupied and 61 per cent of the commercial space was leased.
A few months later, the property entered the 50-50 joint venture Kennedy Wilson established with Axa, which refinanced it with debt raised from US insurer MetLife.
The Elysian was and remains Kennedy Wilson’s only Irish residential acquisition outside Dublin. Two three-bed apartments were advertised to let in the complex in early March at a monthly rent of €3,328.
Kennedy Wilson had made its first Irish deal in 2012 from a receiver tasked with dispersing the empire of developer Liam Carroll. History repeated itself in 2018 when a similar source presented the US investor with its last major Dublin acquisition to date.
In 2012, Nama had appointed David Carson of Deloitte to unwind multiple loans secured on development sites in the north Docklands special development zone. The receiver actively managed the properties in the following years, ordering demolitions and pushing them through the planning process.
In 2018, Nama was still sitting on the last site, a 5.91-acre parcel codenamed City Block 3 located between Sheriff St and the Luas red line on Mayor St, just behind what is now the Central Bank. Agents Cushman & Wakefield and Savills then put it on the market in two lots. Bidders had a choice between the residential portion of the site, with planning permission for 347 apartments, at a guide price of €45 million, or the €65 million commercial section with more than 330,000 sq ft of office and retail space permitted.
Kennedy Wilson announced on October 3, 2018 that it had bought both for €113 million.
The US firm did not go it alone. While it did invest €68 million of its own equity, it had brought along two 50-50 joint venture partners. Axa took a 50 per cent interest in the residential section of City Block 3, while US property investment firm Cain International took up half of the office project.
Cain is a subsidiary of Eldridge Industries, the investment firm of US financier Todd Boehly, which has since made a $300 million direct investment in Kennedy Wilson in 2019.
Over the following two years, the new owners and their architects went back and forth with Dublin City Council to secure new planning permission for an expanded scheme of 472 apartments, 395,000 sq ft of commercial space, a creche and a public park. The buildings, in seven blocks, range from two to seven stories. Most of the apartments are one-and two-bedroom homes and intended for the rental market.
In the final weeks of 2020, Land Registry records show that CBRE Loan Services applied to have a charge registered on the residential portion of the site and Allied World Insurance Company on the commercial section. This suggests that the developers raised construction finance from the New York-listed property firm and from the insurance company, which is owned by Kennedy Wilson’s early co-investor in Ireland, the Canadian investment firm Fairfax.
With this in place, Kennedy Wilson picked Sisk as the main construction contractor at the end of 2020 and workers hit the site the following year. The project is scheduled for completion this year under the Coopers Cross brand. Its owners have recently estimated total development costs, including land, at more than €625 million, €344 million for the office blocks and €282 million for the apartments.
Part 2: From zero to two million sq ft of commercial property
Part 3: “Ireland has been successful for us. We don’t have any problem saying that”