Irish

Friday 11 July 2014

Plotting a game plan after the final whistle

Published 06/01/2013|05:00

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From the playing field to the investment arena: Roisin Burke on how sports stars score in the business world

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Even top athletes performing at the peak of their game seldom earn enough money from sport to see them through the period after they leave the field.

When the roar of a crowd has faded, the caps, medals and accolades have been won, what do Irish sports stars do next? Some have gone on to make savvy plays in business. And some less than savvy ones.

Former Formula One ace Eddie Irvine has cannily accrued a multimillion euro international property portfolio since leaving the racetrack. He's developing a yacht club and eco resort in the Bahamas island of Exuma, where he's put in €8m of his own money behind the project and is said to be seeking further investment.

He's also just bought land in Bangor, Co Down, and plans to convert old period buildings there into luxury housing.

His company, Eddie Irvine Sports, has a big leisure complex in the North offering go-karting, football, laser quest and a holiday apartment complex.

Colourful rugby legend Trevor Brennan has run a bar in Toulouse for years, and recently started a sports tourism business. One of Trevor Brennan Tours' upcoming jaunts is timed for the 2013 Lions' tour in Australia, with Peter 'The Claw' Clohessy and pundit Brent Pope accompanying the party as part of the package. Should be lively.

Several other rugby players have made interesting investments. Ex- Munster and Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery has backed Her.ie, an online fest of fashion news and celebrity gossip for women, along with its blokey equivalent, Joe.ie. Flannery is also involved with the family pub in Limerick.

'When the roar of a crowd has faded, the caps, medals and accolades have been won, what do Irish sports stars do next?'

Ireland, Lions and Leinster sensation Brian O'Driscoll teamed up with Irish software engineer Ray Nolan last year to launch a new international rugby app that provides game news, analysis and chat. The two have invested 50/50 and are targeting a million downloads. Nolan got a €500m return on WRI, his last internet business.

Goldman Sachs Ireland is run by an ex-Lions and Ireland star of the Eighties, Hugo MacNeill. The Oxford-educated Dubliner presides over an outfit that manages €8.6bn in assets, delivering €38m in profits.

On the soccer side, former international and Sunderland exec Niall Quinn now has a satellite broadband business called Q-Sat, which is making serious headway in markets in Ireland, Britain and Africa.

Seventies' and Eighties' Ireland soccer star Kevin Moran has a share of the €60m Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin. His brother Ray is a well-known orthopedic surgeon (he's the guy that Jon Bon Jovi went to for knee surgery). Celtic FC footballers have used the clinic where PR guru John Saunders and former KPMG partner Niall O'Carroll are also investors.

Moran was a founder and served as the finance director of Proactive Sports Management, one of Britain's biggest sports management agencies, which floated on the stock exchange with a €40m market cap in 2001.

Kildare GAA manager and former Armagh football captain Kieran McGeeney has put money into start-up health food company Slender Choice, which has won shelf space in Dunnes Stores and Tesco and is aiming for €1m turnover this year.

Dublin Gaelic footballer star Bernard Brogan is still doing well on the pitch but is planning ahead for a future off it. He has trained as an accountant with Farrell Grant Sparks and has set up a sports management company to advise athletes how best to tap the €120m sports sponsorship market. He also has an eye on a career in entertainment and event management once he hangs up his football boots.

Donegal GAA footballing legend of the Seventies and the manager that brought that county to an All-Ireland victory in 1992, Brian McEniff, now runs an eight-hotel business that includes Dublin's Skylon.

Part of the epic 1987 Galway All-Ireland hurling win, Brendan Lynskey is a member of a consortium trying to revive a five-star Caribbean resort hit by the collapse of its Icelandic bank backer. Work on the €100m project is due to start in April 2013.

John McHenry, who was a European Tour pro golfer, has partnered with the Hanratty group that is bidding to buy Cork golf resort Fota, priced at around €10m. McHenry also has his own golf resort consultancy and has advised at several prestigious courses.

But things don't always go smoothly in the transition from sport to the commercial world. Kilkenny hurling hero DJ Carey's cleaning business ran into problems and is in liquidation despite his efforts to save it with €600,000 of his own money.

Ex-Ireland prop Peter Clohessy co-owns a famous rugby bar in Limerick with a nightclub attached called the Sin Bin. Although it's one of the biggest in the city, it appears to have been mauled by pub trade declines. The company behind it had losses of more than €300,000 in last accounts.

Ex-rugby ace top name, Keith Wood founded a golf property investment company called Links Living. Targeting wealthly Americans to entice them to buy golf-course adjacent real estate, it ended up in the rough and was wound up last year, chalking up multimillion losses.

Rugby supremos Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara had a lucky escape last year. Both were among investors in ponzi firm Custom House Capital, but luckily escaped being burnt as the schemes they were part of matured before problems emerged.

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