Bringing Web Summit to life
IF you're in your 20s, Paddy Cosgrave's story will carry particular resonance for you.
College graduates tend to follow a fairly formulaic route into the workplace.
Party in university, get your degree, go on a gap year, slide into a big company graduate programme and stock up on suits and shirts.
Mr Cosgrave didn't follow that route, however. The 27-year-old college graduate is a serial entrepreneur and this year made his biggest hit to date when he organised the second F.ounders event in Dublin.
The event, which ran alongside the Dublin Web Summit in October, brought in some of the top technology executives in the world, including founders of Twitter, LinkedIn and others as well as top venture capitalists and Wall Street bankers who focused on the tech space.
The "Davos for tech geeks" event gained Ireland huge international coverage, brought executives here who would never have come otherwise and promoted Ireland as an excellent venue for tech companies to base themselves in.
What happens now will be up to the Government but Mr Cosgrave's efforts have given us a huge boost internationally. Not bad for someone who in another life should still be a trainee accountant.
The toast of Cooley investors
Serial entrepreneur John Teeling got a great Christmas present in the form of the sale of Cooley Distillery to the US Beam drinks group for $95m (€73m).
Mr Teeling bought the Old Locke's distillery in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, in the 1980s and created the whiskey company that produces award-winning brands.
His family stand to gain more than €20m from the sale. He says it is a "bittersweet" deal for him but was the right one for shareholders.
Mr Teeling never invested in property in Ireland or abroad and has been involved in businesses ranging from whiskey to diamond mining.
Not giving in to the bonus demands
Former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton took a lot of flak over 2011 as the building society's new owner Anglo ramped up efforts to shame him into handing back a €20,000 watch, his controversial €1m bonus and monies received for various expenses.
But he emerges from the year as a winner nonetheless because he has made it through 2011 without capitulating on any of the demands, and remains in possession of the infamous watch, the bonus and the expenses cash.
Next year is shaping up as potentially more difficult for the fallen banker, as the Public Accounts Committee may see former bank chiefs called publicly to account over their stewardship of bailed-out institutions.
Meanwhile, Anglo has vowed to continue its probe into Mr Fingleton's expenses and will continue to pursue the controversial bonus and watch.
Flying higher at Aer Lingus
Even those who might have preferred to dislike him concede that the German is the best chief executive Aer Lingus has had in a long time.
With military precision, the former army drill sergeant has been pushing ahead with major changes at Aer Lingus, battling unions, 29.9pc shareholder Ryanair and dealing with nasty legacy issues.
In between all this, the financial position of Aer Lingus has improved considerably.
In the first six months of its current financial year, its pre-tax losses narrowed by nearly a third to €14.2m, while its operating profit jumped 38pc to €25.9m in the period.
Still, despite those figures, the airline faces significant challenges, both in terms of trading and the potential fallout from a €500m-plus deficit at a pension scheme that covers thousands of Aer Lingus, DAA and former SR Technics workers.
Patience paid off for Norkom
The founder and boss of Irish financial software firm Norkom was set to walk away early in 2011 with an estimated €15m after UK-based BAE Systems bought the company for €217m.
It was the highest amount ever paid for an Irish technology company.
The amiable Mr Kerley had long been frustrated at the valuation placed on Norkom's shares on the stock market. While the company had struggled as big banks put off software purchases, it had still managed to turn decent revenue and profits.
Slattery bounced back with Avolon
The Clare-born aviation entrepreneur had a tough enough ride as the bust took hold, what with a nascent executive jet-leasing business failing to take off and his Claret Capital private equity business hitting the skids.
But Mr Slattery has bounced back with Avolon, a major Dublin-based aircraft leasing business that has raised more than $4bn in debt and equity since it was founded in 2010.
The company is spreading its wings, opening offices soon in Singapore and Tokyo, and now has close to 100 aircraft on its books.
In October, Singapore's Government Investment Corporation took a stake in return for injecting $300m into the business.
Making serious 'bread' at Aryzta
THE chief executive of the Swiss speciality bakery Aryzta is one of the few Irish executives who will be able to look back on 2011 with very fond memories.
The former IAWS executive -- he was a lieutenant of Philip Lynch before IAWS was merged with a Swiss firm to form Aryzta -- took home a pay packet worth close to €7m this year, after he and his executives had hit a number of performance targets for the company.
His total compensation package -- €1.2m in salary plus bonus contributions of some €5.8m in stock options -- shocked people who have grown used to pay freezes and cuts over the last three years.
But whether or not you thought anyone deserved that sort of remuneration, Aryzta's board had every right to pay him what they did.
And the company is hardly doing badly. Revenue rose to nearly €4bn and profits increased by a third to €260m.
Kenmare Resources has hit a rich vein
THE year started badly for Kenmare Resources when it lost a €10m libel action taken by former chairman Donal Kinsella over its handling of a sleep-walking incident, but things are looking up.
Michael Carvill, the company's veteran managing director, has seen shares in the mining company post the fourth-best performance on the Dublin exchange this year and the company is expected to start turning a profit next year.
The Dublin-based company, which owns a large titanium mine in Mozambique, was recently included in the FTSE 250 index, which means tracker funds have started buying in larger quantities.
It's been a long wait for Mr Carvill, who first became managing director in 1986 following stints with Tara Mines and other companies, but it seems that the good times are finally in sight.
Paddy Power is still at the races
WHILE It was a bit of a blow for betting group Paddy Power, the departure of its chief operating officer Breon Corcoran in November was quickly shored up by a number of new appointments that were welcomed by analysts.
Mr Corcoran is leaving to become chief executive of UK rival Betfair, where he'll use his extensive experience at Paddy Power to grow the group.
But before he gets his teeth into his new role he'll have to content himself with a bit of gardening. He won't be able to take up the Betfair job until August 2012. He hardly needs the money from the new post. He has shares in Paddy Power worth more than €11m.
A handy DIY job in Chadwicks
WHO? She's the wife of Michael Chadwick, the canny low-key, non-executive chairman of Grafton Group. The listed company owns a swathe of businesses in the UK and Woodies DIY and Atlantic Homecare in Ireland.
While times have been extremely tough for Grafton over the past couple of years, Mr Chadwick astutely guided the firm in an executive role before taking up his non-exec position earlier this year.
Just before the Budget in December, he transferred more than €5m worth of shares to his wife and an additional €1.2m worth of stock to their son, Stephen.
The transfer from a trust controlled by Mr Chadwick meant the shares narrowly avoided being hit with a new higher rate of capital gains tax introduced in the 2012 Budget.
Battling through the banking crisis
In the early months of 2011, the suggestion that it was going to be a good year for BoI chief Richie Boucher would have been greeted with widespread ridicule -- with good reason.
A new Finance Minister came to power vowing to rid the banks of all pre-crisis directors, a group that appeared to include Mr Boucher, and the Central Bank was making noises about investigating whether individuals were responsible for their institutions' demise.
The March 31 stress tests results were the real pressure point though, as Mr Boucher's BoI was ordered to raise €5.2bn, far higher than it had expected. Few believed the bank could raise that kind of cash, and its impending fall into state control was openly discussed.
That change of ownership could have spelled the end for Mr Boucher, though he never admitted it. As it turned out, it was an issue he didn't have to face -- in July 2011, BoI was able to announce it had gotten 'strategic' private investors to stump up €1.1bn.
The bank's existing shareholders and lenders also helped with the recapitalisation. Instead of ceding more control to the State, BoI came out with just 16pc of its stock state-owned, down from 36pc.
The threat from the minister dissipated, and BoI's new strategic shareholders spoke effusively and very publicly about their enormous regard for the bank's chief executive.
In 2012, Mr Boucher must still await the regulator's review of legacy bank directors. But he could hardly have asked for more from 2011.