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Ex-ambassador rails against VR in property deal dispute

A former ambassador from the USA is embroiled in a dispute with Finland's state-owned railway company VR over a real estate deal gone sour.

Bruce Oreck
Ex-ambassador Bruce Oreck outside the train sheds he'd like to purchase. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

Former US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck has launched a tirade against the state-owned railway firm VR which he says has reneged on an agreement to complete a property deal. VR, meanwhile, says that nothing had been agreed by the company's board.

Oreck served as US ambassador in Helsinki from 2009 until 2015, before buying an apartment in the city and lecturing at Aalto University. He has long been interested in purchasing the former train sheds in the Vallila district to repurpose them as a development incorporating restaurants, offices and retail spaces.

In a Facebook post he said he had since 2017 negotiated with municipal and national government, agreed with neighbours and committed to dealing with any environmental pollution on-site, and agreed a provisional price with VR management.

Now the company says it wants a higher price, and has found another potential buyer, prompting Oreck to go public with his appeal for VR to change its mind. The bodybuilding ex-diplomat appealed to Finnish pride in a perceived reputation for straight-dealing.

"This is not right," wrote Oreck. "It is certainly not Finnish and if allowed to go un-remedied, it means that Finland will have lost something way more precious than any real estate is worth. VR should be held to its word."

Oreck says that on 17 April he was given 48 hours to bid on the property or he would lose it. VR says there's nothing exceptional about its actions.

"No deal has been accepted by VR's board of directors," said VR communications director Tatu Tuominen. "All VR's property and sales processes are conditional on acceptance by the board, there's nothing unclear about that."

Tuominen said that VR respected the work Oreck had put in, and the lengthy negotiations he had conducted, and had therefore asked him if he wanted to increase his bid.

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