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Posted by portugalpress on July 19, 2018

The fate of Herdade da Comporta, the rolling Alentejan coastal estate covering an area equivalent to a third of Lisbon and formerly owned by the Espírito Santo banking family, looks finally ‘assured’ after years of doubt and turmoil.

Reports suggest the offer by a consortium led by British businessman Mark Holyoake has been chosen over others fronted by various multi-millionaires because, quite simply, it is the biggest - and “time is running out”.

Comporta is weighed down by debt and construction licences are “about to expire”.

This is a resort that three years ago was on the point of being sold to American ‘“equity fund” Armory Merchant Holdings for €400 million.

Liquidators then moved in and stymied the deal on the basis that any money to be made out of it should go to “guarantee damages that could be awarded as a result of criminal charges” in the BES affair - and since then it has all been pretty much downhill.

There was a moment when it looked like the estate would fall into the hands of a “friend of the banking family for a symbolic fee” - that too was scuppered due to “lack of transparency” (click here).

But creditors, led by State Bank CGD, apparently can’t wait any longer. The deal became “a matter of urgency” in May (click here), and now we’re told it’s settled.

Far from the €400 million ‘record sum’ promised by Armory Merchant Holdings, this offer looks like being a relatively modest €156 million - €119 million of which will go towards paying off CGD’s debts.

Other bids in the ‘race’ came from VIPs Paula Amorim (one of the richest women in Portugal) and French property tycoon Claude Berda. There was also an offer from flamboyant French “prince” Louis Albert de Broglie.

But none reached the amount promised by Holyoake’s company Oakvest, in collaboration with the Portugália restaurant chain, owned by the Carvalho Martins family.

Thus it’s finally looking like things are about to change on what has been described as “one of the most natural and well-preserved pieces of maritime coastline in Europe”.

Approved plans involve five hotels, two aparthotels, 11 tourist villages, six residential complexes and two 18-hole golf courses.

The final decision is due to be formally announced at a meeting of “principal shareholders” of the Comporta holding fund next Friday.

As to Mark Holyoake and Oakvest, this looks very much like this could be his first major Portuguese project.

Holyoake has been described as “a businessman with a colourful past” by the UK Guardian, reporting on a virulent court battle in the UK that Holyoake waged, and lost, against property developers Nick and Christian Candy.

The case raked up a lot of less than fragrant ‘old ground’ and hit endless headlines last year, not least because of the alleged lies coming from both sides.

Summing up Mr Justice Nugee said: “None of the protagonists emerge from this trial with great credit” adding that each of the parties “has shown to have been willing to lie when they consider their commercial interests justify them doing so”.


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