Northern Ireland

Sunderland AFC owner could do NI shopping centres deal

The owners of some of Northern Ireland's best known shopping centres have teamed up with an owner of Sunderland football club in an effort to keep control of the properties.

Foyleside in Londonderry, Forestside in south Belfast and the Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey are all on the market.

They are part of a bigger portfolio that was assembled using substantial loans from Ulster Bank - the sales process was prompted by the bank's strategy of reducing its property lending.

The shopping centres are held by two firms, Foyleside Ltd and Abbey Centre Ltd.

Those companies are owned by two of Northern Ireland's wealthiest men - former UTV chairman John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers, who owns the McLaughlin & Harvey building firm.

Estates Gazette, the property magazine, has reported that the men have teamed up with Ellis Short to bid for the three Northern Ireland properties as well as two other shopping centres in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Short is an Irish-American businessman best known as the owner of Sunderland football club, although he also runs a private equity firm called Kildare Partners.

That firm's recent deals include the purchase of hotels and offices in Germany for a reported £810m.

The McGuckian/Cheevers portfolio also includes shopping centres in England but Estates Gazette said the tie-up with Mr Short is not expected to involve a bid on those properties.

Bids on all of the properties will have to be received by 16 June.

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