independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Driven man left school at 13 to build car dealership empire

HE was the poster boy for the aspiring working classes.

His was a rags-to-riches tale frequently told by the 'Penny Apples' author at many an elegant dining table or propped up on the 'Late Late Show' sofa.

Car dealer Bill Cullen – the eldest of 14 children living in a one-room tenement slum in Dublin inner-city – left school at 13 to work as a messenger boy in a motor company. By the time he was 22, he was running the car dealership.

He went on to set up the Fairlane Motor Company, which became the biggest Ford dealership in Ireland. The businessman went on to purchase the troubled franchise for the Renault car distribution for £1. The company, which he renamed the Glencullen Group, had a turnover of €350m at its peak.

He set up the Irish Youth Foundation in 1995, and he says he has raised over €50m in its name.

The 70-year-old, with glamourous blonde partner Jackie Lavin at his side, became a familiar face as he fronted TV3's 'The Apprentice', with the blunt catchphrase 'You're fired' for any recruits who weren't deemed fit for the business world.

Amid plummeting car sales, his deal with Renault to sell their cars ended in August. Last month, after 55 years in the motor business, receivers took over his last two remaining car dealerships.

He still holds control of the Muckross Park Hotel and Cloisters Spa in Killarney, which he co-owns with Lavin.

In addition, the businessman known for his 4am starts continues to work as a motivational speaker.

The message on his website reads: "Live your dreams. Bill made it happen. Now you can too."

Ends

Irish Independent

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