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Trump snaps up $20 million Irish golf course


U.S. business magnate Donald Trump continued his spending spree this week by snapping up a 400-acre golf resort in Ireland, which was designed by legendary golfer Greg Norman.

Trump said he was "thrilled" with the purchase of Doonbeg Golf Club, on the Atlantic coast in County Clare, which will be renamed International Golf Links, Ireland.

"We only have the best. Doonbeg is an already terrific property that we will make even better --- it will soon be an unparalleled resort destination with the highest standards of luxury," Trump, chairman and president of the Trump Organization, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The 5-star resort - which went into receivership in January - was opened in 2006 and includes a hotel with 218 suites, a spa and several restaurants.

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It will be the 12th hotel owned by the Trump Organization, although its first in Ireland. It also marks the 16th golf club in the Trump portfolio.

The organization has not disclosed the amount paid for the resort, but local media reports suggest that the transaction is worth between 11 million and 15 million euros ($15 to $20 million).

Donald Trump's son, Eric, pledged to create new jobs at the former Doonbeg Golf Club, and protect the jobs of those already working there. The number employed at the resort rose to 230 people at the height of last summer.

Speaking to local radio station Clare FM, Eric said he was due to arrive in Doonbeg to inspect the purchase on Wednesday.

A local resident of Doonbeg, who has lived in the village for most of his life, told CNBC he thought the deal would be good for the local area, with an increase in jobs beneficial to both the village and nearby Shannon airport.

Doonbeg Golf Club on August 18, 2010 in Doonbeg, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland.
David Cannon | Getty Images

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"A lot of people in the area are very happy," the resident, who preferred not to be named, told CNBC.

But he said he was skeptical about how the Trump Organization could turnaround the business, following reports that it had been "hemorrhaging" money after a decline in U.S. tourists as a result of the recent recession.

"The Americans don't come anymore," he said. "Hopefully Trump will have an awful lot of friends that he can fly over here."

Golf Inc magazine stated in January that the course had not had a profitable year of operation since it opened and lost more than $70 million during 2011.

Trump's latest purchase comes despite an ongoing legal battle regarding his golf resort in Scotland, which faces the possibility of having an offshore wind farm built in close proximity.

Trump has challenged the building plans, claiming it would spoil the view from his Aberdeenshire resort, but his actions have so far been rejected by judges. Local media reports suggest Trump could appeal against a recent ruling.

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The billionaire property developer's interest in Ireland could also mark the beginning of a turnaround in the country's real estate sector - which has been at the center of the country's economic woes since 2008.

A property boom and subsequent bust saw the country slide into recession and it was forced to accept a 85 billion euro ($114 billion) bailout by international creditors. Ireland exited its aid program in December.

Aidan O'Hogan, chairman of Property Industry Ireland, told CNBC the Irish property market had emerged from difficult times and the outlook for 2014 was "extremely favorable."

"We've been through a very difficult time but we seem to be emerging from that. The market has been very strong for the last year," he said on Wednesday.

In terms of investment, O'Hogan said Irish property transactions last year totaled 1.8 billion euros and forecast that figure could pass 2 billion euros in 2014.

Commenting on the sale of the Doonbeg Golf Club, joint receivers Luke Charleton and David Hughes from audit firm EY said there had been a tremendous level of interest from both domestic and international investors in the resort.

"It is particularly pleasing to have sold this prestigious property to The Trump Organization who have the vision and resources to take what is an internationally renowned tourism resort to its next stage." Charleton said in a press release on Tuesday.

By's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that the transaction cost for the golf course was cited by local media reports.