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Gareth Graham case against Cerberus ‘resolved' after mediation

Gareth Graham
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A LEGAL challenge launched by Belfast businessman Gareth Graham against US vulture fund Cerberus to win back control of some of his assets has been settled out of court.

Mr Graham, whose family owns the Sean Graham bookmakers chain, had contested Cerberus's right to appoint receivers and administrators to his property portfolio, which had been transferred into Nama following the 2007 crash.

He insisted the properties should not have been placed in Nama because his business was financially robust and he never missed a repayment nor did he sign any personal guarantees.

Mr Graham had criticised Cerberus for demanding repayments of £33 million within just 24 hours following a series of meetings, and they then appointed administrators and receivers to his companies.

His High Court challenge had been listed for hearing last October but was then adjourned to February and then further put back until May.

However, it emerged on Thursday that a judge ruled that the two parties must enter into mediation.

And in a highly unusual move, Mr Graham has today taken out advertisements in three newspapers - the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and Irish Times - effectively confirming that the issue has been resolved.

Within his seven-paragraph statement (published on page 29) Mr Graham says he has agreed to meet Cerberus's legal costs in the matter.

No figure has been divulged, but it is understood the costs are significant.

He says he wishes to "return to his business interests and put this affair behind me," adding that his statement represents the only public comment he will be making in connection with the matter.

Mr Graham also says he regrets any harm that has been caused to the Cerberus brand and that he "engaged in the litigation in good faith".

The statement also says the matter has been resolved "to the full satisfaction of all parties".

The Irish News understands that Mr Graham has taken back control of his properties, which includes Lyndon Court on Upper Queen Street, which Cerberus had wanted to sell.

In an interview with the Irish News last year the businessman confirmed that within months of Cerberus taking over Nama's loan book, he was told to re-finance his properties.

He claims he was told traditional borrowers were not suitable, and Cerberus provided a list of potential lenders.

But after forwarding a series of proposals to Cerberus, the company told Mr Graham they were not acceptable.

He says further efforts to negotiate with the company proved fruitless.

Within days of his re-financing offer being rejected, Cerberus appointed administrators to Mr Graham's companies, which was the basis for his legal challenge.

Last September Mr Graham gave evidence to a Stormont inquiry into the £1.3 billion sale by Nama of its Northern Ireland property loan portfolio in which he revealed that he reported "inappropriate political and potentially unlawful banking relationships" to US financial regulators.

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