DB Group founder transfers shares to his children as court greenlights Pembroke project

DB Group chairman Silvio Debono and his wife Veronica each transfer €1.4 million in shares to their four children, already at the helm of the Group

Silvio Debono
Silvio Debono

DB Group chairman Silvio Debono has distributed his shareholding in SD Holdings Limited among his four children, effectively concluding a process set in motion when he stepped down from the helm of db Group in October 2022.

Debono transferred the bare ownership of 1,400,000 ordinary shares having a nominal value of €1 each, fully paid up, equally among Robert Debono, Victoria Debono, Alan Debono and David Debono. Each received 350,000 shares. Debono's wife, Veronica, also transferred ownership of another 1,400,000 shares to the four children.

In October, the four siblings to key positions within the Group.

Robert Debono took on the role of CEO, vowing to drive the Group's robust business and investment strategy to consolidate financial success on all fronts.

Lawyer David Debono, became chief legal officer, overseeing all legal matters as well as HR; Alan Debono was appointed chief procurment and accounring officer, taking charge of financial and purchasing policy and execution; Victoria Debono became Brands Manager, tasked with nurturing and expanding the group’s Maltese and global brand portfolio.

When contact then, Silvio Debono said the success of the db Group was due to having always remained true to its roots, taking risks but embracing ‘Maltese prudence’.

“As a Group we remained with both feet firmly planted on the ground. We know where we’re going because we never forget where we came from. That’s our hallmark,” he told BusinessToday. “So while we think big and take substantial business risks, we always do so with ingrained Maltese prudence.”

Debono started his business from scratch. As a 14-year-old he used to collect discarded soft drink bottles from Għadira to redeem them for cents.

"Still a teenager, from being a barman I took the plunge and took over the bar where I worked,” he said. “Then I managed to scrape enough funds to run a tiny guest house and from there we never looked back. Today, we have around 4,500 people working with us.”

Asked whether he regretting anything in his business life, Debono said he had always been inspired and driven by success.

“I love making a success of things as much as I love seeing other people doing the same, even competitors,” he said. “What I regret is that there’s a dark streak in certain people which leads them to denigrate and put down the success of others.”

Welcome news

On Wednesday, the Group welcomed news that Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti ruled against local councils and NGOs who filed court challenges to the development of the DB project on the ITS site in Pembroke, which can now go ahead in the form previously approved by the Planning Authority.

The verdict "brings an end to eight years of scrutiny by various courts, tribunals and authorities", a spokesperson said.

"This has been one of the most scrutinized projects in local history, and the truth has finally prevailed. We now look forward to delivering this world-class project."

Chief Justice Chetcuti handed down two decisions on Wednesday morning, ending a years-long battle by NGOs and residents to stop the development from moving forward.

The appeals, the first by residents and NGOs, including Moviment Graffitti, Din L-Art Helwa and Friends of the Earth Malta, against DB, the ERA and the PA , the second by the Pembroke St. Julians and Swieqi Local Councils, as well as the aforementioned NGOs and residents, had been filed after their objections were rejected by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal in December 2021.

Proposed in 2017, the plans for the site include the construction of a 386 room 5-star hotel rooms in a 12-storey hotel, as well as 179 residences housed in two towers, 17 and 18 storeys high. The plans also included office space, a shopping mall, restaurants and a car park.

Residents and NGOs have campaigned against the project for years, arguing that it will have a negative impact on both the environment and the quality of life of residents in neighbouring areas.

Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, presiding the Court of Appeal in its inferior jurisdiction, rejected the appeal with costs Wednesday morning.

The judgment states that the NGOs were correct in claiming that the EPRT tribunal was wrong to take the Hotel Height Limitation Adjustment Policy and FAR policy as a “subject plan,” that supersedes the applicable local plan, because the wording of both documents indicated that one was a policy and the other a policy guideline.

However the judge went on to note that the NGO’s argument had not been about this, but about whether the ITS project had failed to follow the stipulations of the local plan itself. “These are not legal issues, but planning issues, which the Tribunal has addressed. Therefore this court cannot and should not address issues which extend beyond its legal powers.”

Lawyer Claire Bonello appeared for the appellants. Lawyers Ian Stafrace and Stefano Filletti represented DB group.