Business Irish

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Ireland's richest 300 worth more than Morocco's GDP

Wealthy elite saw fortunes increase by close on €7bn over the last year

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
Rich List 2014
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Ireland's 300 wealthiest people are now worth more than the entire economy of Morocco, according to the Sunday Independent Rich List 2014, published this weekend.

The wealthy elite have net assets of €70.74bn this year, representing an increase of more than €6.7bn on their estimated fortunes last year.

The Irish stock market has leapt close to 50 per cent since January 2013, vastly boosting the wealth of many of the rich list entrants, whose wealth was tied up in Irish equities like Kingspan, Ryanair, Paddy Power or Grafton Group.

Fortunes have also been buoyed by rising property values and the marked improvement in the domestic economy over the last year. There has also been a riproaring performance by international equities on the back of moves by the US federal reserve to keep printing money.

Ireland now has 12 billionaires, one more than last year, with the arrival of bond and forex trader JP McManus into the ranks of the nine zeros. Indian-born industrialist Pallonji Mistry, who became an Irish citizen in 2003, thanks to his Dublin-born wife Patsy, retains the top spot.

Former billboard model Hilary Weston is Ireland's richest woman, as her husband, the retail and department store tycoon Galen Weston's fortune continued to grow.

Telecoms magnate Denis O'Brien is the richest Irish- born man on the list, with a bank balance north of €4bn.

There are 27 new entrants on to the rich list. These include Addison Lee founder John Griffin, the Kilburn-reared Irishman, who built up the UK's largest car hire and mini cab firm, before selling out to private equity group Carlyle last year.

He's joined by Shane Smith, a former barman in Dublin's famous Baggot Inn, who built up a stunningly successful digital media empire in the States.

While there are the usual new arrivals from the technology sector, who are waving big cheques thanks to multi-million-euro buyouts, this year has seen the resurgence of a specialist engineering and manufacturing sector in Ireland. The competitive edge has returned and enterpreneurs like Mayo's McHale brothers are able to make really high-spec kit in Ireland and compete successfully around the world.

There have been huge increases in some people's wealth. Galway's Luke and Brian Comer saw estimates of their fortunes almost double, as further details of a huge German property portfolio emerged. They are in the process of making one of the biggest property gambles ever seen, betting hundreds of millions of euro on an Irish economic recovery.

Father and son Brian and Michael Enright, turned a small west of Ireland transport firm into the global logistics giant Syncreon in little over a decade. It was nearly sold for close to $1bn last year.

Ireland's "Mr China", Liam Casey, is the guy big manufacturers turn to when they want a new tablet or headphones, as he's the sharpest consumer hardwear maker in Asia.

There are casualties, too. Not only have 27 people completely fallen off the list since 2013 but others have seen their fortunes diminish rapidly. Lions rugby legend Tony O'Reilly was one of the biggest fallers this year, thanks to the drop in the share price of oil firm Providence Resources, which exacerbated previous stock markets hits.

Renewable energy pioneer Eddie O'Connor also saw estimates of his wealth pared back, after selling 25 per cent of his company for €100m. It has been valued at much higher. Tin can and glass bottle tycoon Paul Coulson also dropped in wealth as his Ardagh group is forced to shrink in order to meet anti-trust requirements in the US.

We have also pared back the wealth estimates of a number of Northern Irish property developers, including Corbo's Sam Morrisson, based on new company filings showing major asset value write-downs.

The property tycoons who were battered by the crash and subsequent recession are rebuilding their wealth too. While many may still be weighed down by the personal guarantees to their bankers and in thrawl to Nama, others avoided much of the carnage and are quietly going about their business, with men like Shannon Homes' Frank Fahy building up land banks again, to meet the pent-up demand for new housing.

But it's not just work for Ireland's super rich, who have gone on an extraordinary buying spree with their fortunes. Irish people now own not one but three Aviva Premiership rugby clubs in the UK, one Premiership football club, super yachts reaching up to 155 ft, a squadron of high-end private jets and paintings by Picasso, Monet, Degas and Modigliani.

The number of women on the list is tiny, with no new entries.

Sunday Indo Business

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