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Irish Billionaire Has ‘Boatload’ of Customers for Spanish

Denis O’Brien, the billionaire Irish owner of Digicel Group Ltd., said he wants to bring the Ryder Cup to his golf course in Spain, as buyers pay as much as $3 million for homes at the resort.

O’Brien sold about 28 properties last year in his PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona, and he expects to sell between 40 and 45 this year, according to an interview with Bloomberg Television. The buyers include Germans, French, Swiss, Russians and Kazakhs, O’Brien said.

“We have a boatload” of customers, said O’Brien. “These would be high-end properties anywhere from $1 million up to $3 million.”

O’Brien expanded his reach in telecoms, media and sport, after selling his Irish phone company Esat Telecom Group Plc to British Telecommunications Plc in 2000. The Ryder Cup, which alternates between Europe and the U.S. every two years, is a marketing tool for courses to become as well-known as such locales as St. Andrews or Pebble Beach.

“We’re going to go for the Ryder Cup,” O’Brien said. “We’ve spent a lot of money on infrastructure, because unlike a lot of developers in Spain, they try and do it piecemeal, we did the whole lot in one go.”

Property Crisis

The PGA Catalunya development includes luxury apartments and villas, according to its website. Real estate prices in Spain have fallen by over 30 percent, amid a six-year property crisis which has helped drag the country into recession.

O’Brien is chairman and founder of Kingston, Jamaica-based Digicel Group Ltd. His Irish interests include newspapers and radio stations. The Irish economy is improving as the country’s housing market improves after a real estate bubble crashed in 2008, he said.

“There’s much more consumer confidence,” he said. “We’re seeing that the housing market has bottomed out now and is recovering, particularly in urban areas.”

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