Casting Light On Another O’Leary Empire

Published on Sunday 4 April 2010. By John Reynolds

The high-flying Ryanair boss keeps quiet about his other financial interest — commercial property. We uncover the details of his vast portfolio

RYANAIR chief Michael O’Leary is seeking to rent out an office block he owns in the City of London, according to details that have recently emerged and thrown new light on his property interests.  

Located in the heart of the city’s insurance district EC3, 50 Mark Lane is a 27,000 sq ft office building that spans six upper floors plus a ground floor and lower ground floor, according to the agents.

With an annual rent of £37.50 (€42) per square foot for the upper floors and slightly less for the others, it would bring in about £875,000 a year.

Although currently unoccupied, renovation works on the property were due to be completed in March last year, and included the installation of a new air conditioning system, a new reception and basement showers.

His office may be empty for now, but having issued a report earlier this week saying that profits at the low-fares airline have soared for the year to the end of March, he shouldn’t lose too much sleep seeing that the value of his stake in the company is up by €16m.

Also in the news this week for the grovelling apology he had to make to transport minister Noel Dempsey about an untrue allegation he had made, Mullingar’s most famous resident keeps his cards close to his chest where his other wealth is concerned.

While it is known that he owns two houses beside each other on Raglan Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin — he paid €9.4m for one of these in 2006 and bought the one last year from corporate financier Angela Cavendish for up to €5.9m — very little is known about his other property investments.

We did, however, get a peek at how these are managed when he took out a number of national newspaper ads in September 2007 when, in anticipation of the departure of the previous one, he sought to hire a new assistant to manage his private investments.

The Sunday Independent has now unearthed some intriguing details about a number of British properties owned by the airline mogul. Unlike Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of rival airline easyjet who has a division of his Easy group that rents out flexible office space around London, Mr O’Leary’s properties are anything but no-frills and appear to be let on longer leases to a much better class of tenant.

Next door to a massive modern office block that houses the world’s biggest dedicated business court, the Ryanair boss owns an office and retail block at Fetter Lane in EC4 in the English capital. tenants include Beachcroft, a law firm that has roots back as far as 1762 and which also has an office in Dublin; and The White Swan, an enticing city gastropub.

At one of London’s most sought-after office addresses, St James’s Street in SW1, a 13,565 sq ft-listed office block called Gam House is also believed to have been part of Mr O’Leary’s portfolio some years ago.

Close to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and with the offices of global firms such as BP nearby, it was on the market in 2004 for £12.75m and commanded an annual rent of £675,000.

Elsewhere is Spectrum House in Edmund Street in Birmingham. Originally built in the 1970s, this eight-storey, 60,000 sq ft office block was refurbished in 2001 and would command an annual rent of about £1.5m, according to recent figures quoted in the Birmingham Post.

With law and accountancy firms based in neighbouring offices, it is currently let to HM Customs and Excise — better known as the taxman — according to the developer Frontier Estates.

The fifth property that has been part of Mr O’Leary’s portfolio is in Altrincham, a wealthy suburb of Manchester, not far from where many Manchester United players own stunning mansions.

Having paid £4.85m for it some years ago, the Ryanair chief is thought to have sold Aspect House, a 20,580 sq ft office building to a firm called Styles and Wood, which is in the property game itself — it specialises in managing and developing new stores for major retailers.

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