Weston to be first in sale of Mansfield properties

Savills is seeking a buyer with ‘some of the Michael O’Leary entrepreneurial spirit’ for airport with guide price of €3 million

IRELAND’S BUSIEST private airfield, Weston Executive Airport near Lucan in west Dublin, is to be offered for sale on the international market in the first stage of a planned sell-off of a range of distressed property assets held by the Citywest businessman Jim Mansfield.

Two different receivers have been appointed to handle the sale of a substantial property portfolio which includes Palmerstown House and PGA golf course, the Citywest Hotel and Resort, convention centre, two golf courses, language school and a residential development.

Shortly before Christmas, Bank of Scotland secured a €214 million judgment against Mansfield. Two months earlier, the National Assets Management Agency was granted a €74 million liability order against the businessman.

Nama has appointed KPMG’s Kieran Wallace to handle the sale of Weston and the Palmerston estate.

Mark Reynolds of Savills, who is quoting a guide price of over €3 million for Weston Executive Airport, says they have already logged a range of inquiries from aviation interests in Ireland and overseas.

Weston will be particularly well known to most of the leading Irish property developers who based their private jets and helicopters there during the property boom. Virtually all the aircraft disappeared when Nama started throwing its weight around.

At the peak of the property market in 2006, the airport had a turnover of €3 million and had no fewer than 80,000 aircraft movements.

In 2010, this figure had dropped to 50,000 and, although the decline has accelerated since then, the airport is still managing to virtually break even. The strong rent roll is underpinned by a wide range of aviation tenants including a professional and private flight training business.

Reynolds said Weston was in the unique position of being able to offer the owners of corporate jets landing and storage charges which were no more than 10 per cent of the fees charged by the Dublin Airport Authority.

He said the forthcoming sale meant that a new owner could build on the current trading position and avail of the significant historic expenditure undertaken over the past seven years.

“All that is needed now is some of the Michael O’Leary entrepreneurial spirit and skill to drive the business to new heights.”

James Higham of Savills UK dedicated airport advisory team, said they had not seen an airport of this size openly offered for sale in the UK or Ireland for a number of years. “This truly is a unique opportunity and one which we feel sure will attract international interest, with a number of aviation companies already making enquiries.”

Weston Aerodrome was originally opened in 1931 by the infamous Darby Kennedy who, from 1946, operated a de Havilland Dragon in commercial services around Ireland and the UK. Part of the first World War aerial combat film The Blue Max was shot there.

Mansfield’s early success at Citywest led him to acquire the airfield in the early 2000s for about €4.5 million. He later bought additional lands to bring the overall airfield to 256 acres. He also upgraded and extended the 1,000m tarmac runway and developed two hangars as well as a traffic control tower and a new terminal building.

The airfield has extensive frontage on to the Liffey and lies on the opposite bank of the river to Guinness-owned land, which at one stage was earmarked for a vast new Guinness brewery. That project is not now to proceed.

Savills is to offer Weston for sale in one or three lots. The overall property includes Westonpark House, a large period house with a range of buildings on 11.33 hectares.