The iconic cinema plus surrounding buildings were bought in two lots by Irish developers, former Irish rugby manager Pat Whelan, Pat Chesser and Paul Hanby, with loans from Anglo Irish Bank and Allied Irish Banks.
However, the project ran into difficulties, ending up in a High Court battle when Frank Woods’s Real Estate Resolutions sued Mr Whelan and Mr Chesser.
Nama could not sell its share of the city-centre property, and the surrounding land that borders Panton Street and Whitcomb Street, just yards off Leicester Square, without Mr Woods’ agreement, since his company owned all, or nearly all, of the street frontage after it bought AIB’s debt.
Eventually, the British hotel group Edwardian, which owns the Radisson Edwardian hotels, bought the combined properties, which include the now closed Hand Racket pub, from Nama and Real Estate Resolutions in January 2012. Nama is believed to have got full payment, but no more, from the £100 million deal.
Planning permission for a hotel was secured in October 2008 for the lands by Mr Whelan and his partners, including a two-screen cinema, a 245-bedroom hotel, 33 apartments, four restaurants at ground floor and one at ninth-floor level.
However, a new application from the Edwardian group for a 10-storey building to replace the existing six buildings on the half-acre site – which was passed by Westminster City Council on Tuesday night – does not include apartments but a larger hotel.
The new hotel will enjoy bars, restaurants, a spa and a 20m swimming pool. However, the Odeon cinema will return to its place on Leicester Square – which was a specific demand in both planning applications by the Westminster council.
The Edwardian is one of the UK’s largest privately-owned hotel groups, including the Mayfair, Radisson Edwardian Heathrow, two hotels in Leicester Square, including the Hampshire and the Bloomsbury Street Hotel and the Kenilworth in Bloomsbury.