As bids close on Lough Erne, Treacy in there battling

Published: 13 Jun 2013 13:000 comments

As the deadline for best bids on the iconic Lough Erne Resort closes today (Thursday) at 12 noon, former owner Jim Treacy tells The Impartial Reporter: "I am working through a process whereby I will be trying to get back to where I was." He adds: "I have a plan. I keep working my plan. If it's successful it's successful. If it's not, so be it."

Jim Treacy in happier times at Lough Erne Golf Resort with Rory McIlroy and Arlene Foster, Enterprise Minister.<<

Paul Collins from CBRE Hotels which has put the hotel on the market for £10 million reveals that considerable interest has been shown from within Ireland, the UK and overseas. "At this stage we are not quite sure who will bid as bids generally come in on the day and people are hesitant to disclose whether they will be making a bid," he explains, adding: "Hopefully we will be reviewing some great bids on Thursday at 12 noon."

The five star resort was put into administration in May 2011, owing £25 million to Bank of Scotland Ireland which decided to pull out of Ireland completely. Because Belcoo-man Jim Treacy had used his SuperValu store at Churchtown in south Dublin as security for loans advanced by Bank of Scotland Ireland for the resort, it was also placed in receivership. At the time he blasted the bank as being "immoral" for its failure to take a long term view of the business which was making a £600,000 operational profit in only its third year of business.

Now, Mr. Treacy reports: "I have a very good business there (in Dublin) and with the support of people who believed in me, I am well and truly on the road back."

When asked if he has put a bid in for the Lough Erne Resort, he replies: "There are many people who have come to me and said: 'You have brought this from the ground up, we admire that' and have came forward and said: 'We want to support you.' At this moment in time I would be quite coy about my movements going forward."

"Nothing has changed since 2011," he says, "because I did it for all the right reasons back then and I still don't feel one bit different to what I did back then."

Legal proceedings over an unsigned lease are sorted, Mr. Treacy reports, "but it commercially stands the same whereby there is rent payable to local landowners".

The fact the hotel has been chosen to host the G8 summit is "a stamp of approval" for what he did, he believes. "There wouldn't be any G8 in Fermanagh were it not for that building," Mr. Treacy reiterates.

He doesn't dwell on the fact that he lost £10 million of his own personal investment in the hotel.

"I take each day at a time. I don't dwell [on losing the money]. I made Lough Erne work through the support of businesses and money earned in another part of Ireland so it's ironic to think today that the very place where the G8 are holding their meeting, that it took the personal passion of a local person like me to put my money in to make it happen. And yet, when the chips came down, the Bank of Scotland upped and left."

Asked how is situation was received in the Republic, where developers have generally been portrayed negatively since the crash of the Celtic Tiger, Mr. Treacy says: "I felt I was well supported and well understood in the south and I think it is wrong to put all builders and developers into one band. What a ridiculous assessment of people that is."

On the other hand, in Northern Ireland and within Fermanagh, he feels that "more could have been done locally and to have been ignored is quite annoying".

He says: "Local politicians' hands must be tied," adding: "How is there not one person in your local area who can stand up and say: 'This is a disgrace what happened to this person. This man, along with the likes of Sean Quinn, did so much to help this area' but they won't stand up and be counted?"

"There are people 'up there' who saw what I did and saw that it was a location for the standard of the G8. [Politicians] like to make out everything is OK. Look at the nonsense they are at now painting over dirt; people aren't fools."

Mr. Treacy continues: "I believe in what I do, I'm passionate about what I do, I went ahead and I done it. It's proven to be right from the point of view that it's there on the ground today and it's hosting the G8 summit, but it was a huge personal risk to myself."

He is not angry, he says. "I am not a personal person, I'm not into that scene. I'm into facts. I am what I am and I believe in myself so much in that if I'm down to the last, I'll believe in myself and keep at it." He adds: "Life is full of swings and roundabouts."

Asked if potential G8 investors have been in touch after hearing his story, he replies: "There's no sympathy in this game. These administrators don't deal in sympathies. Administrators are there to get the highest price, get commission and hang in there as long as possible." He adds: "Places like Lough Erne don't get built with the mindset of people who think like administrators."

If he had not had "the affinity of doing something for my own county and the belief and passion to get on and do it", there wouldn't be a Lough Erne. "So today, while we are on the eve of the G8, it is ironic and I snigger to myself at the goings on and where it is today."

Mr. Treacy recalls the early days, particularly his idea to create the Gordon Wilson library. "I wanted to bring everything from outside, inside e.g. the Gordon Wilson library, the Catalina restaurant, the Thai spa, the story of the flying boats of Lough Erne that were there during the war years. When I was doing that, there were people who thought: 'The man's off his head!'"

Around the world, Enniskillen is renowned for the 1987 IRA Remembrance Day bomb in which 11 people were killed (with a 12th victim spending 13 years in a coma after being injured, and dying in 2000). Mr. Treacy recalls travelling through checkpoints and roads being closed on the way from Enniskillen to Dublin. "There was one man with serious foresight during those troubled times and that was Gordon Wilson." He continues: "I always had this seed of a thought in my head that as I did well in Dublin, I'd like to do something for my home county one day. That's how that came about." Mr. Treacy's wife met Joan Wilson to ask her permission for the library and the idea was "very well received".

On the aerial photo of the resort which has become a 'G8 logo', he remarks: "I sold that iconic picture all over the world to get people to know where Lough Erne was. People didn't know where Fermanagh was! It was that picture of the lakes that got the golfers interested."

He spent a lot of time travelling to America, Dubai and other destinations marketing his idea, "a personal sacrifice that people didn't realise the amount of work involved".

He often speaks with Sir Nick Faldo who designed the Championship golf course and who maintains that "the Lough Erne is one of the best golf courses he has ever designed anywhere in the world".

Mr. Treacy takes heart from a recent meeting with 16 visitors from Las Vegas. "They asked to meet me and they were in awe of the place."

When asked how he would feel if he placed a bid and was outbid by someone else, he replies: "So be it."

He concludes: "I have a plan. I keep working my plan. If it's successful it's successful. If it's not, so be it. I will be doing my utmost to be part of what I created."

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