Donald Trump St Andrews: Who competed against Trump for Hamilton Hall?

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The prestigious status of Hamilton Hall, the grand building overlooking St Andrew’s internationally-famous Old Course, meant that Donald Trump was not the only wealthy, high-profile individual to become associated with the property, even long before it was put up for open auction by the Bank of Scotland.

They included Dermot Desmond, the Irish billionaire and biggest single shareholder in Celtic Football Club.

(clockwise from top)  Herb Kohler eventually secured the vaunted Hamilton Hall after interest from Celtic FC's largest shareholder Dermot Desmond and Donald Trump.

(clockwise from top) Herb Kohler eventually secured the vaunted Hamilton Hall after interest from Celtic FC's largest shareholder Dermot Desmond and Donald Trump.

READ MORE: US President’s secret bid to buy one of Scotland’s most prestigious properties

On 29 August 2007, just four months after Trump held a meeting at Trump Tower with David and Bernie Wasserman and two senior Bank of Scotland executives, Desmond wrote to David Wasserman, thanking him for the opportunity “get involved” in St Andrews Grand, which he described as a “great location.”

The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Scotland on Sunday, saw Desmond discuss the ins and outs of a potential purchase of a £5m flat at the luxury development. However, he queried the fractionalised ownership model being proposed by the Wassermans.

READ MORE: Revealed: How Donald Trump tried and failed to buy one of Scotland’s most expensive properties

Donald Trump has long held business ventures in Scotland. Picture: TSPL

Donald Trump has long held business ventures in Scotland. Picture: TSPL

“Currently I am being offered a right to use an apartment, but not to own it. It is effectively still a time share,” Desmond told the US real estate developer. “Where I want to end up is with an apartment which I own (subject to certain standard management rules), which complies with planning conditions and which is not available as security to any third party.”

READ MORE: A history of Hamilton Hall

Desmond, a keen golfer who is friendly with some of the sport’s biggest names, pointed out that if he bought the flat, then later sold it for £7m, the Wassermans would be entitled of around £960,000 of the profit. “It seems inequitable that a purchaser would benefit so little in the uplift in value of the original investment,” he observed.

The talks continued, and by October, the Wassermans sent Desmond a term sheet, proposing that he pay £17.5m for a 50 per cent stake in the Delaware limited liability company behind the St Andrews Grand project, which would have seen Hamilton Hall turned into 11 to 13 luxury units.

The proposed joint venture stipulated that Desmond would not be identified as a co-developer of the project on any sales, marketing, or public relations material, unless he gave his approval.

Two months later, Maria O’Sullivan, Desmond’s legal assistant, returned a revised term sheet. It too specified that Desmond would take a 50 per cent share in the project, but for just £6.75m, with his International Investment and Underwriting (IIU) private equity firm assuming half the debt.

The term sheet stated that the first £40m in profits would be split 50/50 between IIU and Wasserman

The discussions between Desmond and Wasserman never resulted in a deal, but there were other parties interested in Hamilton Hall.

They included Vikare St Andrews, an investment vehicle formed by Scots Steven Carmichael, a property agent, and Neil McAllister, a financial advisor, who considered entering into a joint venture agreement with the Wassermans.

Vikare St Andrews promised that via International Management Group, the firm which represents Colin Montgomerie, the Hamilton Hall residences would be marketed to a “veritable ‘who’s who’ of the golf and business world.”

Vikare claimed that informal talks had identified several prospective buyers, including Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, who has been accused of serial human rights abuses during his long authoritarian rule.

Once again, no deal was closed, and by August 2009, Hamilton Hall went to an open auction, attracting a smattering of press interest.

Trump’s firm made two final offers for the property at that stage, one for £10m - which asked the bank to provide a £9m loan facility - the other for £4m. Neither was accepted.

In all, the selling agents, Jones Lang LaSalle, received seven more bids by the closing date.

A list of the those bids, compiled by the bank and obtained by Scotland on Sunday, details the competing factions.

Others who tried - and failed - to buy Hamilton Hall included the Scots tycoon, John Boyle, a former Motherwell FC chairman and Direct Holidays founder turned investor, whose Hamilton Portfolio vehicle offered £10.1m.

The University of St Andrews, the former owners of Hamilton Hall, offered £4.1m.

In the end, the bidder who put up the most money prevailed; Herb Kohler, the billionaire US plumbing magnate, prevailed offered £11m, and was unveiled as Hamilton Hall’s new owner a few months later.