The future ownership of the world-famous Belfry golf and leisure complex near Sutton Coldfield has been thrown in the melting pot after a financial crisis gripped owners the Quinn Group.
The debt-ridden group, which bought the popular luxury complex in February 2005, has been placed in the hands of Anglo-Irish Bank and US insurance firm Liberty Mutual.
The move saw Seán Quinn’s business empire prised from him, leaving the tycoon facing ruin – and prosecution.
The 63-year-old, who spent almost 40 years building up Quinn Group, faces corporate governance charges for burdening the company with more than £3.5 billion in debt. The Irish taxpayer will be expected to pick up the tab for any shortfall.
The move has triggered speculation over the future of the Belfry, one of the Quinn Group’s blue riband venues, and four times home to the Ryder Cup.
General manager Nigel Gray could not be contacted for comment, but an insider said: “It clearly does raise a lot of uncertainty, especially bearing in mind that the Belfry is the headquarters of the PGA.
“I would imagine that the bank would want to keep it going as a going concern – it is a cash generator. The Quinn Group has continued to invest in the hotel, and has spent a fair amount of money on the golf course.”
A massive £200 million revamp of the Belfry was announced in June 2007, but put on ice indefinitely in autumn 2009 as the recession bit.
Planning permission had already been approved for the Midlands’ only five-star hotel, while other plans included a new PGA national headquarters, training academy and a 21st century clubhouse near the 18th hole.
The Quinn group operates in a wide-range of sectors, including property, insurance and hotels.
A share receiver whas been sent in, whose first act was to put a number of non-executive directors on the board, taking control away from the Quinns.
The Irish Department of Finance said: “Seán Quinn and the Quinn family will no longer have any role in the management, operations or ownership of the Quinn Group.”