Glass tycoon Coulson passes out rival Quinn
Published 07/10/2010 | 05:00
Seven years ago there were two glass tycoons in Ireland, Sean Quinn and Paul Coulson, both with pretensions to grow European-wide empires in an industry which tends to be a play on economic growth.
While Quinn was hoping to use Ireland as a launching pad into the UK, the latter was trying to leave Ireland entirely and devote his energies to creating a glass and packaging group in mainland Europe, via a new Ardagh company based in Luxembourg.
In 2003 the two taciturn glass moguls squared up to each other for control of Ardagh Glass with two bids by Quinn flatly rejected, even though some Ardagh shareholders were irate the Quinn bids were not embraced, with many furious at Coulson for this and his decision to close down the Irish Glass Bottle factory site in Ringsend.
Based on subsequent events, the Quinn bids massively undervalued the business and its potential and Coulson was able to avoid a very large falling knife, by not being incorporated into the Quinn Group. The two men also tangled in a planning dispute about their glass plants in the UK.
Now Quinn Glass, which forms part of the Quinn Group, is being dragged into tortuous debt negotiations with bond holders and opportunistic hedge funds, while Coulson is off building a giant glass and packaging empire backed up by some of the world's largest blue chip investment banks.
Coulson has done an extraordinary eight acquisitions since 1999 and his new Ardagh Packaging Group (in which will nestle his latest acquisition, the Impress Group) expects hefty annual sales of €3bn. Quinn Glass annual sales are only a fraction of this, although it doesn't break out the precise figures within the Quinn Group accounts.
Looking back over the seven years since that fateful takeover battle for Ardagh, Coulson will feel more than justified in taking the lonelier road to success.