Business Irish

Saturday 23 August 2014

Brennan and the €50,000 Surfer's Paradise jolly

Nick Webb

Published 29/06/2014 | 02:30

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Kieron Brennan stood down some weeks ago
CYCLE: Tom Kennedy

Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) boss Kieron Brennan is looking forward to the organisation's annual jolly to the World Credit Union Conference on the sunny Gold Coast of Australia next month.

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Brennan is leaving ILCU to join social housing body Nabco in September. One of his final acts will be to make the arduous 33,000km round trip to the Aussie coast.

The ILCU, which is funded by credit union members, is coughing up almost €50,000 to send Brennan, board members and some staffers to the shindig.

Brennan is pencilled in to make a speech – 'Regulatory Challenges to Financial Co-ops/ Credit Unions as Bank Customer'. Zzzzz.

But there are other fun things to do, including optional tours to the Great Barrier Reef, "a six-course banquet" and an aboriginal cultural performance. Or a visit to the Canunga winery and a whale-watching cruise. The delegates were given a choice of hotels including the five-star Marriot Hotel and Spa in Surfer's Paradise at $215 a night. There were also cheaper rooms at the $155-a-night four-star Freshwater apartments.

"The total cost of the attendance at the conference is less than €50,000," the ILCU told me. "Costs covered include airfare, hotel accommodation and registration costs, which pay for the staging of the conference."

With the troubles facing the credit union movement, Australia seems the perfect escape... even with a bull shark attack the other day. Watch out for fins in the water Kieron.

Queen eyeing up McGuckian assets

Queen Elizabeth may end up buying part of ferry company ICG chairman John McGuckian's property empire.

Companies associated with McGuckian own the humungous Fosse Park shopping centre in the UK which is up for sale. Bids are expected tomorrow.

The Crown Estate, the Queen's property investment outfit, is seen as the frontrunner for the asset. A price tag of £435m (€542m) is doing the rounds, my property people tell me.

McGuckian, a former AIB board member, is also the man behind textile group Cooneen, which makes everything from Iron Man jim jams for multiples to bomb- proof jocks for the US Marine Corps. He's also on the board of Shane Reihill's TVC Holdings.

I met him on Friday at the TVC AGM in the Clyde Court Hotel. So what about the Queen, I asked?

"Do you believe that stuff about me? I never talk about my affairs," he hrmmpfed, taking the podium with fellow TVC directors Shane Reihill, Gavin O'Reilly, David Doyle and Padraig O'Riordain.

McGuckian and Northern Ireland tycoon Ken Cheevers are behind AFG Property, which owns Fosse Park, as well as a stack of other shopping centres across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Fosse Park was bought for around €450m in 2005. It was at the time the largest single retail transaction in the United Kingdom since the 1990s.

McGuckian and Cheever racked up hundreds of millions of euros in loans from Ulster Bank to assemble the shopping centre portfolio. Ulster is now doing the reverse ferret and trying to deleverage out of property so it will not be unhappy with AFG's decision to sell..

The Queen has turned out to be rather good at property speculation. Her Crown Estate is now sitting on buildings and land worth €12.5bn, up 15 per cent on last year. As well as owning some prime chunks of Mayfair and Piccadilly, it is also the landlord for Eddie O'Connor's Mainstream renewable windfarm project at Neart na Gaoithe in the sea off Scotland and the Galantas gold mine operation near Omagh.

Ulster Bank and McGuckian have got to be hoping that the British monarch will pay over the odds for Fosse.

Paddy Power steps up its efforts to find new chief

THE search to replace Patrick Kennedy as chief executive of Paddy Power has gone up a gear. The listed bookie has taken on headhunter Korn/Ferry International to discretely tap some of the brightest talents on the shoulder and gauge their interest in running the €2bn-valued firm.

Paddy Power has established a board sub-committee to run the rule over potential recruits. It is made up of chairman Nigel Northridge, ex-O2 boss Danuta Gray, Stewart Kenny and former Arthur Cox managing partner Padraig O'Riordain. Other board members will be involved in the interview process.

It's early doors but my insiders tell me that Cormac Barry, who runs Paddy Power's barnstorming Australian operations, and the bookmaker's retail chief Andy McCue are seen as the internal frontrunners.

There are big boots to fill given that Kennedy quadrupled the size of the business during his time in the hot seat. One of the best-paid bosses of the last decade, he exited with shares worth €28m. He has sold €5m of shares and also earned over €10m in pay and dividends.

The headhunters will need to find a "wow" candidate, as shares have slipped by almost 20 per cent since Kennedy's plans became clear in May.

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