Director’s deal sends Ury sale into the rough

By Ian Fraser

Published: The Sunday Times

Date: September 27th, 2009

Ury House near Stonehaven a derelict Victorian pile; image from Flikr

Savills are unable to sell the estate after former owner granted agricultural tenancy to one of their own directors

The estate agent Savills has had to scrap plans to sell the Ury estate near Stonehaven after it emerged the former owner, FM Developments, had granted “an agricultural tenancy” and a “right to buy” to one of their own directors, John Forbes, a farmer in the northeast.

The move is an acute embarrassment for the upmarket agency, which had already attracted interest from several consortia of developers.

The right-to-buy notice was registered with the Registers of Scotland and made apparent to Savills only on August 14, even though it is understood to have been effected and sanctioned by Bank of Scotland Corporate, FM’s lenders, in 2003. Thwarted bidders for the site said its mere existence makes the 1,500 acre estate unsellable.

Savills declined to comment but is understood to be furious that this information was not passed on before it was instructed to sell Ury by FM’s administrators, Zolfo Cooper (formerly known as Kroll) in March.

FM, 10 of whose companies went into administration in February, bought Ury in 2001. The firm, led by Jonathan Milne, whose father John is Forbes’s first cousin, had been intending to build 238 houses on the estate, redevelop the ruined Ury House as a deluxe hotel and build a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course on the site.

A spokesman for Zolfo Cooper said the Ury Estate was still for sale. He added that the “right to buy” and “agricultural tenancy” granted to John Forbes & Partner “is not a position that is accepted by the administrators”.

It has been suggested Zolfo Cooper may take legal action against Forbes. It is also understood that some of the bidders will seek redress from Zolfo Cooper to cover professional fees incurred in working up proposals for the site.

Forbes, 62, farms 5,000 acres in Angus and has three dairy herds, 1,600 outdoor breeding sows, mixed arable crops, flowers, bulbs and vegetables. He established East Coast Viners Grain in 1977 as a feed-milling company supplying grain, fertiliser and feeds to farmers throughout Scotland.

FM, which stands for Forbes Milne, focused on the development of homes and leisure facilities throughout Scotland and abroad at Cape Verde and St Lucia.

Bank of Scotland declined to comment.

This article was published in The Sunday Times on Sept. 27th, 2009. To read on Times Online click here

Short URL: https://www.ianfraser.org/?p=931

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