Sunday 4 December 2016

Anglo link crippled richest tycoon

Sarah Stack and Brian Hutton

Published 14/04/2011 | 16:02

Just four years ago Sean Quinn was Ireland's richest man worth almost €5bn.

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But the cement tycoon has finally been forced to give up the remnants of the empire he built on the back of a IR£100 loan.

His rise to the top has ended with the most spectacular fall.

The once shrewd 64-year-old saddled himself with €2.8bn in debts built up through failed complex share investments in scandal-hit Anglo Irish Bank.

Neither Mr Quinn, his wife Patricia or their five children will have any further roles in his prized Quinn Group, which he created from nothing and made global.

Mr Quinn left school at the age of 14 to work on the family farm in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, in the North.

With a borrowed IR£100 he dug a hole on the 23-acre small-holding, started extracting gravel, washing it and selling it to local builders before developing his business across the border into the Irish Republic.

Soon dubbed the "Mighty Quinn", he took on the huge Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), who had the market sewn up, and later turned his attentions to insurance, glass, plastics and radiators.

The Quinn Group also set its sights on the hospitality industry - with the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan at its centrepiece, and a hotel and leisure business spanning Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria and Poland.

He bought the Prague Hilton in the Czech Republic and took over the De Vere Belfry hotel and golf course in England - where the Ryder Cup has been played four times.

The Quinn Group became recognised as the most profitable private company in Ireland, with a worldwide workforce at more than 8,000.

In January 2007, Mr Quinn bought the country's second biggest health insurance provider Bupa Ireland for €150m in a deal that stopped it leaving the Irish market.

Within a year the Sunday Times Rich List estimated his personal worth at €4.72bn. Forbes Magazine's gave him a similar worth - and listed him as the 164th wealthiest individual on the planet.

But it was Mr Quinn's reputation as a plain-living but fearless outsider who took on big monopolies and won which finally cost him.

Investing heavily in the maverick Anglo while he was still Ireland's richest man stripped the sheen off the cement tycoon with the Midas touch.

The move proved to be a monumental mistake for the usually shrewd entrepreneur - who initially had at least €1bn wiped off his personal wealth.

Attempts to service his mounting debts led to Mr Quinn's humiliating resignation as chairman from his flagship Quinn Insurance when the firm was hit with a record €3.25m fine in 2008 for breaching financial regulations.

Exactly 12 months ago the notorious media-shy entrepreneur relinquished control of the most profitable arm of his business with permanent administrators appointed to Quinn Insurance.

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