Slieve Donard buyers closing on second luxury hotel deal in north

AJ Capital is closing in on a deal to acquire a second luxury Northern Ireland hotel, The Irish News understands.

THE US property investment group which bought the Slieve Donard Hotel last year is closing in on a second acquisition in the north, The Irish News understands.

Adventurous Journeys (AJ) Capital paid the Hastings Group around £40 million for the hotel in October.

Located next to Royal County Down Golf Club, the Newcastle hotel joined AJ Capital’s portfolio of luxury golf hotels.

Rebranded last year as the Marine & Lawn Collection, it includes the Marine Troon, Rusacks St Andrews and Marine North Berwick, all in Scotland.

Industry insiders have said the Nashville-based investor has been actively seeking to expand its Marine franchise in Northern Ireland.

And it has emerged that its second deal to close to being done.

AJ Capital’s penchant for “storied golf destinations” located in scenic coastlines leaves a very short list of potential candidates in the north.

The US investor states that the Marine & Lawn hotels “distill that intangible essence in a collection of fine landmark hotels”.

Speaking at an event in Belfast earlier this month, Philip Allen of AJ Capital namechecked both the Royal County Down and Royal Portush golf courses adding: “I don’t think you have to be a genius to work out where we might be looking next.”

Another US investor is currently developing a five-star luxury golf resort next to Royal Portush.

Planning permission was approved last year for 35 new suites at Ballykeel Beg House, which overlooks fourth fairway of the championship course.

Although it stands apart from the character of its current Marine & Lawn portfolio, Dunluce Lodge would offer a storied coastal location next to a world class golf course.

It’s also understood that AJ Capital had originally entered negotiations to buy both the Slieve Donard and the Culloden Estate from the Hastings Group.

The five star Culloden is promoted for its proximity to Royal Belfast and a number of north Down courses.

But a spokesperson for the family-owned group last night appeared to pour cold water on any further deals with the US investor, stating that there were no active negotiations with AJ Capital.

TRU Hotels, the US operator of the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh has also ruled out selling its prized asset.

It’s understood the group is preparing a major investment at Lough Erne in 2022.

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