Business Irish

Friday 19 September 2014

O'Leary pulls in reins on bid for Newmarket stud

Ryanair CEO out of running as he refuses to raise bid by €300,000 to meet €4.75m price, writes Tom Lyons

Published 10/02/2013 | 04:00

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Bargain-hunting Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, has pulled out of the bidding for an historic stud just north of Newmarket, after he baulked at paying an extra €300,000.

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Irish investor Dermot O'Rourke and his wife Perle placed the 210-acre stud called the Plantation Stud on the market in May last year, attracting international interest from purchasers interested in acquiring a stud near Britain's largest racehorse training centre.

The O'Rourkes were seeking bids of over £4m (€4.75m), but the Ryanair boss was only prepared to go as far as £3.75m. Mr O'Leary and his wife Anita visited the stud over the past month, but talks ended in recent days.

Other buyers remain interested in the stud, which previously attracted interest from members of the Qatari royal family.

Last week alone Mr O'Leary's 51 million shares in Ryanair surged in value by more than the price of the entire stud after Ryanair posted third quarter pre-tax profits of €18.1m – a 21 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Mr O'Leary's Giggenstown House Stud in Mullingar is already very successful and his colours are regularly among the winners in Newmarket.

With his brother Eddie, Michael O'Leary owns successful racehorses like Sir Des Champs, War of Attrition and Bog Warrior.

The decision to bid for the Plantation Stud may reignite speculation that Mr O'Leary is preparing for a life after Ryanair. However, despite hinting he planned to retire for the last decade, Mr O'Leary has never really shown any intention of stopping being Ireland's most successful chief executive. In October 2012 Mr O'Leary said his wife would "love" him to retire but "she should be careful what she wishes for."

The Plantation Stud traces its roots back to The Earl of Derby when it was part of his Stanley Estate where he kept Hyperion, a dual classic winner and legendary sire, during the Second World War for safety reasons. In 1958 Lord Howard de Walden purchased the stud from the Earl of Derby.

It was the birthplace to champions including Kris, winner of 14 of his 16 starts, and Slip Anchor, the winner of the Epsom Derby. Mr O'Rourke, a former director of the Irish National Stud, bought the Plantation Stud in 2005 for an undisclosed sum. He has invested several million in the property which, alongside its principle house, also has a Stud Groom's house, two cottages, and substantial stud buildings.

Irish Independent

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