Barclays Capital has repossessed the five-star St Regis Hotel in Washington DC, which was a bought by an Irish private equity firm at the height of the Irish property binge.

The hotel will now be auctioned by the bank, which is reported to have provided two loans of $135 million to finance the purchase. The auction is set for October 22. A previous auction had been arranged for late September but was cancelled.

Claret Capital bought the St Regis for $170 million in 2007, a price significantly above the $47 million that had been paid for the hotel just two years earlier by Brickman and New Valley Corporation, two American real estate investment firms.

At the time, Claret bragged that it was buying a "unique investment opportunity -- assets of this quality and reputation have a scarcity value as they rarely come to market." Indeed, the St Regis, which is just two blocks from the White House, is regarded as one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. It has played host to many foreign dignitaries, not least Bertie Ahern, who stayed there in 2008 on his so-called farewell tour just before he stepped down as Taoiseach. On that tour, he addressed to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Claret, founded in 2005 by Domhnall Slattery, was part-funded by Senator Feargal Quinn, of the Irish grocery store chain Superquinn, with the senator holding a 25 percent stakeholder in the firm.