Saturday, January 28, 2017
Westport House sold in deal that includes €50m investment
Agreement has been reached for the sale of Westport House in Mayo.
Present owners the Browne family, who have lived there since the 17th century, have confirmed the sale of the historic house and estate, saying it will continue to operate as a tourist attraction with the new owners committed to a €50m investment.
In a statement, the family said it had been deeply touched by the support of the people of Westport over the last few "difficult years" and are confident that Wesport House and its the 455-acre site would continue to be an anchor for tourism in the region.
200 new jobs will be created as part of the new owners' - the local Hughes family - €50m investment plan.
Ms Sheelyn Browne stated: "This is an emotional day for our family. On the one hand, we are handing over custody of our ancestral family home after hundreds of years but we are doing so in the knowledge that the new owners are committed to bringing to fruition the ambitions and dreams of our late and much loved father Jeremy Browne."
"There is one group that deserves special mention. That is our hard-working and dedicated small team at Westport House. We would not have been able to survive the last three difficult years without their unwavering support and loyalty. They know who they are and we as a family owe them a great debt of gratitude.
"We have been touched very deeply by the wonderful support of the people of Westport over the last few difficult years. We are confident that Westport House will continue to be the anchor of tourism in the region and we have agreed to collaborate with the new owners."
She added: "The entire family wishes the new owners the Hughes family every success as the custodians of this wonderful and magical place."
Chairman of the Hotel Westport Cathal Hughes said: "I want to acknowledge all the efforts of the Browne family over the years to maintain this beautiful house and estate and we look forward to continuing this great work
"We plan to invest up to €50m in new facilities which will lead to the creation of 200 new jobs over the next five years.
"I want to assure all the existing staff, suppliers and customers that we will continue to operate as normal under the new ownership.
"As a local business family, we are delighted to be able to make this investment in our home town. We realise the importance of Westport house as a tourist amenity to the whole of Mayo and we will work very closely with the planners in Mayo County Council to ensure that the integrity of Westport House and estate is maintained whilst at the same time creating a viable sustainable business model that is in everybody’s interest long-term."
Westport House has views of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick. The Carrowbeg River flows through the extensive parklands of the property.
In October 2015, Westport House was left out of a sale from Nama's loan portfolio, even though Nama had taken over the estate's loans.
According to reports, the Government intervened to ensure the stately home in the Taoiseach's Mayo constituency was not included in a bundle of properties code-named Project Arrow.
At the time, Minister for Tourism Michael Ring said he believed that Mayo County Council would want to buy the debt in order to keep Westport House, a local tourist attraction, in public ownership.
WESTPORT HOUSE IN NUMBERS
• Original house was built in 1679. Richard Cassels designed the current house 50 years later. Cassels also designed Leinster House and Carton House. The house was completed by renowned English architect James Wyatt in the 18th century. Wyatt also planned the layout of Westport town;
• The house has been home to the Browne family since the 18th century. The Browne family members are direct descendants of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, head of the ancient Mayo O’Malley clan;
• Westport House was the first stately home to open to the public in 1960 and has welcomed more than 4 million visitors since;
• 162,000 visitors in 2014 (up 82% on 2009);
• €1.7 million direct expenditure to the Exchequer and the local economy in 2014;
• €50.7 million indirect investment to Mayo and the wider region
• 47 full-time jobs on site at Westport House Estate
• 84% visitors are Irish
• €1.8 million in turnover generated in the financial year ending 30.09.2014
• Over 60% of respondents to an on-site survey reported that Westport House was their principle motivation for travelling to Mayo