Northern Ireland

Court told Bono met Saudi prince on yacht in hotel deal

Image caption The court heard Bono was a very close friend of developer Paddy McKillen

The rock star Bono met a billionaire Saudi prince on a yacht during a deal to sell the Savoy, one of the world's most famous hotels, a court has heard.

The U2 singer was referred to during a legal battle between businessmen over the control of three top London hotels.

Belfast-born developer Paddy McKillen has taken the case against the twins, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay.

The court heard Mr McKillen attended the meeting with Bono, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal and another developer.

The other property developer was Irishman Derek Quinlan, who revealed details of the 2004 meeting while giving evidence at the High Court on Thursday.

The case centres on a company called Coroin, which owns the Connaught, Claridges and the Berkeley hotels in London.


Mr McKillen and the Barclay brothers have all invested in Coroin, but the Belfast man has accused the twins of trying to "oust" him as a director in order to take control of the firm.

Mr Quinlan, who was also a shareholder in Coroin, told the court that the Savoy had been part of the hotel group until it was sold to Prince Al-Waleed - a member of the Saudi royal family.

In a written statement, Mr Quinlan described how the yacht meeting in August 2004 had come about due to a dispute over the level of deposit the prince's company was prepared to pay to buy the Savoy.

He said the prince invited him aboard his yacht in the south of France to finalise the deal.

Image caption Paddy McKillen is in dispute with Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay

"I asked Mr McKillen if he wanted to come; he agreed and I suggested that Mr McKillen's very close friend of 20 years, the singer Bono from the band U2, should join us," the statement said.


"I recall that I sat beside Prince Al-Waleed and Bono sat next to me, Mr McKillen, on the other hand, sat at the other end of the yacht and made no contribution to the discussion.

"Although the deal to sell The Savoy did not complete until January 2005, we had agreement on its terms aboard Prince Al-Waleed's yacht," Mr Quinlan told the court.

He argued that Mr McKillen's role in the meeting was that of a "spectator more than a participant" and accused him of giving the court a version of the story which was "simply not true".

He described a claim that the decision to sell the Savoy had taken by Mr McKillen - and the other shareholders acting on his advice - as "amazing".

"It is simply not true. The decision was not led by Mr McKillen, but by me," Mr Quinlan told the court.

Mr Quinlan also said that in December 2004, Mr McKillen had approached him about investing in the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, which was then owned by the four members of U2 and Irish businessman Harry Crosbie.

"Mr Crosbie and two of the band members, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton, wanted to exit so Bono and the fourth band member, The Edge (real name David Evans), were seeking investment from Mr McKillen, who is their close friend," the statement said.

The court heard that Bono, The Edge, Mr McKillen and Mr Quinlan each agreed to take a 25% interest in the Clarence hotel.


However, Mr Quinlan said that by 2009 he was under "huge" financial pressures and asked for another meeting with Bono, The Edge, Mr McKillen to discuss his investment in the Clarence.

Mr Quinlan said a plan to restructure the hotel's debt was proposed but claimed the documentation was "heavily lawyered", and he thought that the deal would leave him at a disadvantage.

"I took this to be a tremendous insult from Mr McKillen - he was trying to oppress me and he must have assumed that I would not properly read the documentation and understand its import," said Mr Quinlan.

"I do not believe Bono or The Edge were behind this - this was Mr McKillen's doing.

"I did not sign. From this point on, my relationship with Mr McKillen deteriorated, and he took a series of steps which were designed to embarrass me and exclude me from the decision-making process."

Mr Quinlan, 64, of Putney, south-west London, told the judge how he had become a tax inspector after leaving university, then "specialised in advising Irish individuals on how to mitigate their tax liabilities" before starting to invest in property.

He said he had never "done anything to unfairly prejudice" Mr McKillen.

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