Friday 19 December 2014

Rich List 2014: 1-49

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

THEY’VE DONE WELL: The richest people in Ireland, from left, Pallonji Mistry, Hilary Weston and Denis O’Brien, who is generating revenues fast approaching $3bn per year
MAKING OVER €100m IN A YEAR: John P Grayken
MAKING OVER €100m IN A YEAR: Pearse Lyons
Dermot Desmond
Martin Naughton.
U2. Photo: John Wright
John and Patrick Collision
Michael O'Leary
Michael and Niamh-Flatley
Margaret Heffernan of Dunnes Stores

IRELAND'S Rich List 2014

1 Pallonji Mistry and family €9.36bn

Industry, up €1.67bn

The Mumbai-based Mistry family top the Sunday Independent rich list yet again. Is their ranking on the wealth indexes unassailable? That's debatable. But what's beyond question is that they own some very valuable assets indeed.

Most notable among their assets is an 18 per cent stake in one of India's largest conglomerates, Tata Group.

They also have Irish citizenship thanks to family matriarch Patsy Perin Dubash, who was born in a nursing home on Dublin's Hatch Street just before the outbreak of World War II. She married Pallonji Mistry, who took out Irish citizenship in 2003. Their children, sons Shapoor and Cyrus and daughters Laila and Aloo, are also Irish citizens.

Pallonji is the chairman of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, which has interests in construction, real estate, textiles and water filters. He was also a movie financier, putting up the cash for one of India's best-known movies, Mughal-e-Azam.

The Mistry family have been one of India's wealthiest dynasties for several generations, initially making their fortune from construction and real estate in the days of the Raj. Pallonji Mistry's father bought up a stake in the Tata Group back in the 1930s.

It has to rank as one of the greatest investments of all time as Tata grew to become one of the world's largest companies, with interests ranging from Jaguar cars to Tetley tea, to chemicals, steel and hotels to electrical goods. The widely diversified group includes 32 stock market-listed companies worth close to $100bn.

Last year, golf nut Cyrus took over the controls at Tata Group, replacing his uncle Rajan who had been responsible for a massive growth spurt in line with India's burgeoning economy. He inherited a somewhat unwieldy ship and has spent much of the last year trying to right size the business. The SUV-collecting tycoon is also said to be something of a "foodie" and enjoys travelling to top restaurants in Europe.

Apart from a mansion modelled on the White House, facing the sea breeze in Mumbai, the Mistry family have properties in London, Dubai, Pune, Alibaug and Matheran. There's also talk of a property by the sea in Ireland . . . but we still haven't tracked it down as it may be owned by a trust.

2 Hilary Weston€6.25bn

Retail, up €100m

The 72-year-old former billboard model from Sandymount is now part of the richest double act in Canada. Hilary Frayne and up-and-coming Canadian businessman Galen Weston fell in love and married in 1966.

The glamorous couple lived in Wicklow for a number of years as Galen built up his business interests, which started as the Powers supermarket chain and then evolved into Penneys. However, threats of an IRA kidnap saw them move to Canada. The bulk of the Weston fortune comes from retail. Posh retail and supermarkets. Weston has a controlling interest in Loblaw, which is Canada's largest supermarket company, as well as being the second largest luxury retailer in the world. He chairs Canadian department store group Holt Renfrew, as well the Selfridges Group in the UK, the De Bijenkorf department store chain in the Netherlands, and the Ogilvy department store in Montreal. The Westons also own Brown Thomas on Dublin's Grafton Street. Another big fat blob of wealth comes from the Weston Foods business, Canada's biggest bread and bakery company.

The Westons have a slew of really opulent properties around the world, apart from the home base in Canada; there are homes in Windsor, France and the Caribbean. The family has also developed a luxurious and very exclusive gated community in Florida.

And it's only half of the overall Weston fortune. In the mid-1970s the Weston family divvied up their business interests, with one part taking North America and the other taking Europe.

3 Denis O'Brien €4.36bn

Telecoms and media, up €580m

The richest Irish-born man on the list, O'Brien saw his fortune rise on the back of the continuing growth and success of his Digicel mobile phone empire, which now has over 13 million customers in 30 different countries. The bulk of O'Brien's fortune came from the €1.2bn sale of his Esat telecom business to BT in 2001, which netted him over €220m. He's turned that windfall into a fortune more than 20 times bigger in just over a decade, through the phenomenal success of his Digicel mobile business.

Digicel has been growing rapidly over the last year and narrowly missed out on a bid for the mobile licence in Burma. Despite the setback, O'Brien, 56, now looks to be developing mobile phone and mast infrastructure in the Asian state. It is thought that he is also looking at expanding into Africa, with Ethiopia as a possible beach head. The Digicel mobile business is also developing into a major financial services player, as more and more people use its mobile phone cash transfer and payments service. This will be a huge opportunity for O'Brien.

Generating revenues fast approaching $3bn per year, Digicel also throws off an awful lot of cash, with O'Brien getting the bulk of a €240m dividend in 2012. A $650m special dividend is expected to be paid to O'Brien and other backers this year, according to investor documents.

But O'Brien owns far more than just a mega mobile phone operator. He is the largest shareholder in Ireland's biggest media company INM, as well as controlling the major private radio operator Communicorp, which broadcasts Today FM, Newstalk and Spin 103.8fm. He also owns some prime real estate in Dublin – both commercial and residential – and a stake in Sterling Energy, which is looking for oil in Kurdistan. He owns a massive resort and residential complex in Quinta da Lago on the Algarve, as well as an extensive golf course business. Hosting the Ryder Cup is part of his plans, with his PGA Cataluña course near Barcelona going all guns blazing for the competition. "We're going to go for the Ryder Cup," O'Brien told Bloomberg in December.

O'Brien also successfully refinanced the Topaz petrol station chain, giving him control of one of the State's largest cash-processing businesses, as well as the biggest finished fuel importer in Ireland. The billionaire has also agreed to cough up the readies to pay a big chunk of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane's salaries for the FAI.

4 John P Grayken €3.9bn

Finance, up €100m

Texas-based private-equity mogul John P Grayken picked up Irish citizenship in the 1990s. Grayken is one of the shrewdest turnaround kings about, with his Lone Star fund having spent over €70bn on different deals and assets over the last 20 years.

The Pittsburgh-educated economist worked on Wall Street before setting up on his own in 1995. Grayken made a fortune during the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, buying low and selling high.

The initial successes were in the banking sectors of Japan and South Korea. Now he's focused almost entirely on property and property-related loans. He has raised over $45bn to invest in distressed assets.

Ireland has featured heavily on Grayken's radar over the last two years, with Lone Star kicking almost every tyre going. It spent €675m buying a bundle of property loans from AIB and has been chasing €1bn worth of loans associated with developer Michael O'Flynn and the €7bn Anglo UK book.

Lone Star buys these loans at a discount, tidies up the assets and waits for markets to improve before flipping them at a mega profit. Company documents show that the Irish arm of Lone Star has invested $817m in various deals over the last year. Grayken is understood to have a yacht in the Caribbean as well as a fine period mansion in Surrey.

5 Pearse Lyons €1.8bn

Animal healthcare, up €200m

Louth animal healthcare magnate Pearse Lyons is working on major plans to grow his hugely successful Alltech business in the extremely lucrative Chinese market. The company is in supercharged growth phase and is making buckets of money. A couple of transformational acquisitions are said to be on the way too.

Biochemist Lyons, 69, began in the Harp factory in Dundalk before moving to the US to seek his fortune. He found it in yeast. Lyons was able to see the potential of using yeast and yeast derivatives in animal feed and more specifically in animal healthcare products.

He owns all the shares in Kentucky-headquartered Alltech, which is now one of the top-10 players in its sector with sales of over $1bn and a master plan to increase that to $4bn in jump time.

Lyons spends around 300 days of the year travelling around the globe in his bombardier jet visiting Alltech's operations. He also has a brewing business, with a facility in Carlow.

6 John Dorrance €1.65bn

Inheritance, up €10m

Dorrance, an heir to the Campbell's Soup fortune, moved to Ireland in 1994 with his Finnish wife, to avail of our benevolent tax regime. He renounced his US citizenship, becoming an Irish citizen as part of the process.

The 70-year-old sold most of his 10.5 per cent stake in the company for around €1.2bn in 1996. Dorrance – nicknamed "Ippy" – also owns major tracts of land in Devils Tower, Wyoming, as well as some prime real estate in London.

His son John Dorrance IV has been a regular fixture on the London society circuit, once dating TV star Donna Air.

7 Dermot Desmond €1.45bn

Investor, up €50m

Dermot Desmond is Ireland's own version of Warren Buffett. His investments over the last decade and a half, ranging from technology, media, shares and debt, have generated quite terrific returns for the former stockbroker.

Desmond set up NCB stockbrokers in 1981 as a means to disrupt the sleepy Irish market. It worked in spades and he sold the business for £39m in 1994.

He spent the next decade becoming a billionaire, through a series of daring stock market gambles or other currency deals. Desmond's biggest score – so far – was when he bought London City Airport for €30m in the early 1990s, selling it 15 years later for over €1.1bn.

He owns a 22 per cent stake in the listed Mountain Province Diamonds, which is developing the biggest new diamond mine in the world up in the icy tundra of Canada's north-western territories.

Desmond, 62, controls Celtic football club, having earlier made a mint when flipping shares in Manchester United before it was sold to the Glazers.

Other assets include a chunk of the Barchester Healthcare nursing home chain, as well as fast-growing biometric technology firm Daon – which could be worth an absolute fortune.

The Macroom man has also become the second largest shareholder of INM, as well as having positions in Datalex and Ladbrokes.

With the exception of a €30m sale of his Betdaq gambling platform to Ladbrokes, 2013 seemed to be a low-key affair for Desmond. When the swashbuckling IFSC-based financier is this quiet, it generally means that he's up to something big. And then at the start of 2014 he netted €180m from the sale of his stake in online payments group Optimal – representing a near nine-fold return in just a few years.

There have also been whispers that Desmond has been making an absolute killing in the corporate debt markets over the last year. He has traded part of the $175m debt issue of Opko Health as well as getting involved in Peach Group Holdings, one of the world's largest institutional funders of life settlements and other financial products. Desmond has also bought debt in Intel, Newmount Mining and other blue chips in recent years.

He is an owner of the uber-posh Sandy Lane hotel in Barbados and is also building a new €150m luxury resort in the nearby Grenadines.

Son Brett is married to popstar Andrea Corr, while other son Ross got engaged to fashion designer Stephanie Smart, part of the Made in Chelsea set.

8 Martin Naughton €1.3bn

Industry, up €20m

Naughton is Ireland's most successful industrialist, with his Glen Dimplex heating and electrical equipment empire a massive global success story.

It's the world's biggest heater company. And it's all run from the nerve centre up in Louth.

The business started in Newry in 1973; with Naughton, 72, and his partner Lochlann Quinn building up bulk through the acquisition of first Dimplex and then Morphy Richards.

Constant reinvestment saw Glen Dimplex generate real scale and develop brands such as Belling and Morphy Richards.

Naughton was one of the first Irish businessmen to get into the Chinese market. The company now has sales well north of €1.6bn and employs over 8,500 staff worldwide.

Glen Dimplex is an unlimited company so its full finances are difficult to penetrate. However, Northern Ireland subsidiary Glen Electric showed sales slip 3.5 per cent to €974m last year, with pre-tax profits down 4 per cent to €72m.

He owns a fantastic stately pile at Stackallen in Meath. His other assets include large swathes of the IFSC, renewable energy assets as well as a chunk of the posh Merrion Hotel and the Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.

As well as being a major Irish art collector, Naughton is one of the most generous philanthropists on the island, donating to the arts and education. He donates half of his annual earnings to good causes.

9 Cleary family €1.05bn

Inheritance, up €50m

When Monaghan-born dairy entrepreneur Eamonn Cleary died in late 2012, he left the bulk of his €1bn-plus fortune to his wife Catriona and their eight children. Cleary had made money from farming in Meath before moving to New Zealand in the late 1980s.

He discovered that he had quite the knack for business and built up a string of enormous dairy farms, ultimately becoming one of New Zealand's biggest milk tycoons.

The land banks involved were huge and became increasingly valuable as property prices soared. Cleary also got involved in commercial and retail property development schemes in New Zealand, selling one property to pop star Shania Twain's husband.

He is believed to have sold down a large portion of his portfolio before reinvesting in shopping centres in Argentina, the US and Eastern Europe as well as telecoms interests. He also owned the Clearsky stud operation in Kentucky, which produced Group 1 winner Rags to Riches.

10 Ellis Short €1.05bn

Finance, up €50m

Ellis Short was John Grayken's business partner at the vast $45bn Lone Star distressed asset buyout fund.

He made an absolute fortune when masterminding some spectacularly lucrative deals in Asia in the 1990s. Short became an Irish citizen in 2008. His Kildare Partners ramped up operations over the last year.

Kildare has its beady eye on some plum Irish property and banking assets, ranging from bundles of Nama loans, to other assets being offloaded by the banks. He has raised close to $1bn from investors to buy these assets.

But Short is probably best known as being the man who sacked Roy Keane. The London-based financier bought Sunderland football club from a group of Irish developers and publicans in 2008 and set about trying to secure its place in the Premiership. Keane was given the bullet in February 2009.

Short hasn't been patient with managers, with Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neill and Paolo di Canio all shown the exit since 2011.

Short spent around €28m buying Skibo castle in Scotland in 2003. He also owns properties in London's West End and in the K Club. He's also thought to own a $40m home in Hawaii.

11 Paul Coulson€1bn

Glass bottles, down €100m

Paul "the Cooler" Coulson clearly had business smarts before he even ventured out into the corporate world.

While studying at Trinity, he helped to restructure the Trinity Ball and return it to profitability. He was also instrumental in the creation of the "Pav" bar, which overlooks Trinity's well-manicured cricket crease.

After training as an accountant, Coulson, 62, moved into high finance and international leasing with his firm Yeoman Investments. In 1998, he bought a stake in sleepy Irish bottling firm Ardagh.

Over the next 15 years, he utterly transformed the company into one of the biggest food and drink packaging firms in the world. If you drink anything out of a bottle – Heineken, Coke or other beverages – chances are that Ardagh has made the bottle.

Coulson has masterminded the growth spurt at Ardagh by extremely shrewd use of the bond markets. He's borrowed an awful lot to finance a blitzkrieg of deals on rival firms.

Ardagh is worth about €3bn, with Coulson and various trusts controlling close to 37 per cent. Ardagh plans to float on US stock markets later this year, but it has been delayed pending completion of an antitrust investigation.

The Paris-based billionaire retains a pretty impressive residence in the city as well as property on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road and in London. There's also talk of a mega yacht in the Med.

Coulson also owns a chunk of the Microsoft Atrium building in Sandyford. Coulson has also been a trustee of Fine Gael and is one of the trustees of the party's Dublin headquarters.

12 JP McManus €1bn

Finance, up €50m

The "Sundance kid" is best known for his exploits on the horse racing circuit, but the Limerick man has made a fortune on the currency and fixed-income markets over the last two decades. We figure he's now definitely in the billionaire bracket.

A former bookie, McManus moved into high-level foreign-exchange speculation in the late 1980s. He is thought to have filled his boots in a daring bet on the devaluation of the Mexican peso in 1994.

McManus is very close to John Magnier and Dermot Desmond and the so-called "three Amigos" often invest in various deals together.

McManus, 63, made good money out of a stake in Manchester United, as well as banking huge dividends from nursing home business Barchester – although this has been mired in debt refinancing over the last year. There is also talk of a 4.9 per cent stake in Indian bank TML. He is also one of the biggest shareholders of the stock market-listed Mitchell & Butler, one of Britain's main pub owners.

He is an investor in the ultra-luxurious Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, where he is building a €40m beach-side villa for himself.

Operating from a trading room overlooking the Rhone River in the centre of Geneva, McManus is not a tax resident in Ireland any more, although his JP McManus Trust has raised over €50m for good causes in his native Limerick.

However, this year, McManus pulled the plug on his annual pro-am golf charity golf tournament, citing the harsh rules related to being a tax exile, which meant he could not spend time in Ireland organising the event.

McManus owns what just may be the largest new build house in Ireland, with his Georgian pile at Killmallock, outside Limerick City. The family also spent €10m to buy Bernard McNamara's house on Shrewsbury Road in 2011.

13 John Magnier €950m

Bloodstock, up €20m

Magnier may just be the most successful bloodstock and stud-farm player in the world, having built up his Coolmore stud into a global behemoth. The extraordinarily . . . er, prolific Saddlers Wells was quite the equine Casanova, with his amorous deeds producing a record 74 Group 1 winners.

Magnier's knack of figuring out which bloodlines would work successfully together has made him extraordinarily wealthy.

That wealth was used to make an even bigger fortune, as Magnier, 66, teamed up with his close pal JP McManus in a wide array of deals and schemes, ranging from big punts on foreign exchange movements to some big-ticket real-estate transactions including a major slice of Place de Vendome in Paris and the Unilever building in London.

There is also a €30m villa in Marbella and a chunk of the exclusive Sandy Lane hotel in Barbados. Magnier is also invested in Barchester Healthcare, which has paid out €445m in dividends to its backers in recent years. He also co-owns a stake in pub chain Mitchells & Butler.

Magnier is also one of the country's most extensive art collectors, owning the €20m Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of Omai, which used to hang in the National Gallery of Ireland.

14 U2 €825m Music and technology, up €20m

Long-time U2 manager Paul McGuinness stood down late last year. While Bono has been the creative driver of Ireland's most successful rock band, McGuinness was the one who helped ensure the money kept flooding in through a series of innovative record company deals or commercial tie-ins.

Their 12 studio albums have sold more than 150 million copies. But the big money now is in touring. U2's 360 degree tour is the most successful rock band tour of all time, generating a staggering €560m in 2011.

The massive One Direction boyband tour this year may dislodge the crown. But there's nothing U2 like more than a root in the ass ... it brings out the best in them.

The final touches are being put on a new album – US fans had a taster in a TV Superbowl advert – will spawn yet another mega tour.

The band have been busy in the studio, rather than out making money over the last year. For the first time in yonks, U2 didn't make Forbes' top 25 earning musicians last year, being pipped by the likes of er ... Tiesto, Muse and Calvin Harris.

Outside music, U2 members are also minting it. Bono and the Edge have more than doubled their money on an investment in file-sharing goliath Dropbox.

Bono's fascination with technology is well known. He's a partner in private equity firm Elevation, which has spent close to €1.5bn building up stakes in the likes of Facebook, Palm, Yelp and Move.com. Some of those investments will have generated quite eye-popping returns.

The four-piece band also has property interests, including a chunk of Dublin's Clarence hotel as well as increasingly valuable land in the docklands. There are also a string of luxury homes in Dalkey and the south of France, including Bono's mega-seafront palazzo at Eze.

15 Ned Guinness €765m

Brewing, down €50m

Ned Guinness, The Earl of Iveagh, is a direct descendent of Arthur Guinness, creator of the "pint".

The bulk of the family's wealth is in a €430m stake in Guinness parent company Diageo. However, over the last 300-odd years, the Guinness dynasty has racked up some pretty tasty assets, including a Canadian property portfolio.

Ned Guinness, 44, owns the massive Elveden estate in Suffolk, making him one of the largest land owners in the UK.

The stately home was a US Air force headquarters during World War II. The building and its interiors featured in Bond film The Living Daylights. But it is also a working estate, producing over 40,000 tonnes of potatoes and onions each year – that's about 10 per cent of all the onions eaten in the UK.

16 Luke & Brian Comer €675m

Property, up €300m

We have drastically hiked estimates of the wealth of the Comer brothers. They may well be working on one of the biggest gambles of all time, spending hundreds of millions on Irish property.

From Glenamady, Co Galway, brothers Luke and Brian Comer started off as contract plasterers before setting up a UK-based property development company in 1989.

They sold many of their assets at the top of the cycle in 2006, shifting their focus to the distressed German market. The Comers now have 29 shopping centres and retail developments across Germany and Belgium, ranging from the vast Uni Centre in Bochum to the Kleiner Stern centre near Berlin. They also own the 23-storey Die Pyramide skyscraper in Berlin, four hotels, a bundle of leisure centres and other office developments.

But the Comers are selling large chunks of this portfolio and are investing the proceeds in Ireland, buying up as much prime property and apartments as they can lay their hands on.

If the market recovers, as it seems to be doing, the Comers will be sitting on truly biblical profits.

So far they are thought to have bought over 1,000 apartments, a shopping centre and hotel in Galway city, a gold course and the half-finished Sentennial tower in Sandyford.

The brothers, who have homes in Monaco, have also taken over the sponsorship of Galway United FC, though a turnaround in their fortunes seems less certain.

17 Ray & Des O'Rourke €670m

Construction, up €15m

Low-profile Mayo man Ray O'Rourke and his brother Des are the main shareholders in Laing O'Rourke – the largest privately owned construction company in Europe.

The pair moved to England and started sub-contracting in the late 1970s. By providing a bespoke service, including pre-cast concrete and design functions, O'Rourke grew rapidly.

The big break came in 2001 when it swooped on struggling listed construction firm Laing, which had been crippled by overruns at the Cardiff Millennium stadium project. O'Rourke bought the debt-laden firm for £1 and turned it around. The renamed Laing O'Rourke won one major contract after another, ballooning in size and revenues.

Coffers have been filled by deals to construct Terminal 5 in London airport, One Hyde Park, The Darling Downs Power station in Australia and other huge schemes around the world. Last year, the firm won the contract to build the highly controversial Hinckley Point nuclear power station.

The O'Rourkes control the firm through a British Virgin Islands trust, Suffolk Partners. These trusts sold €8.75m worth of properties to Laing O'Rourke during the year. Laing O'Rourke saw revenues rise 3 per cent to €4.31bn in 2013, with profits rising strongly. However, no dividend was paid out.

Briefly a mini cab driver, the 67-year-old O'Rourke is renowned for his hard-working approach. Even though he stood down as chief executive last year, he still puts in 17-hour days as chairman.

Despite the vast wealth, O'Rourke still has an eye for value. Gobsmacked by the amount of money design companies were going to charge to redesign the logo of Laing O'Rourke, he did it himself – "in about 10 minutes".

He has a pilot's licence to fly twin-engine King Air light aircraft. "When you're flying a plane, it's fine while you're going along smoothly," he told Building magazine. "But what do you do when you encounter some turbulence? Do you keep going? Or bail out?"

It was a principle carried throughout his business life.

18 Freddie Linnett, Hugh Murphy and Mary Middleton €670m

Property, up €20m

The six Murphy brothers from south Armagh moved to Leicester in the 1930s, where they developed a range of businesses, from car maintenance to coal mining equipment. But property soon became the focus of the Murphy zeal as they began to gradually amass one of the largest private property holdings in the UK.

Sixty years on, the Murphy family's Charles Street Buildings (Leicester) owns 6 million square metres of commercial, retail and industrial space across the UK. That's the equivalent to the entire supply of modern office space in Poland's nine biggest cities.

The company was sitting on shareholders' funds of €663m. Freddie Linnett inherited her 33 per cent share from one of her uncles and was instrumental in helping to grow the business. Even though she started as a tea lady, she rapidly became one of the driving forces of the company, which is run by Hugh Murphy.

The recovery in the British property market has helped boost the family fortune. Linnett is a scratch golfer as well as a tireless charity fund raiser. She's actively involved in the Ireland Fund in Britain. She was once considered to be the second-richest woman in England – after the Queen.

19 John & Patrick Collison €655m

Technology, up €535m

Limerick's John and Patrick Collison are the brightest stars in Ireland's technology sector. They sold their first company Auctomatic for €3.2m when they were just 17 and 19 back in 2007 – and never looked back.

They moved to San Francisco and set up Stripe.com, which has come up with a really smart way of paying for stuff on the internet. Paypal is understood to have tried to buy the company, which is now worth €1.3bn following a recent fundraising round.

The brothers have raised €70m from investors, including Elon Musk, the inspiration for the Iron Man movies; and Peter Thiel, a Paypal founder.

In January, they inked a highly significant deal with Twitter, which would enable Twitter users to buy things on the social media site. As the boys are pretty bloody smart, we assume that they still hold a narrow majority stake in Stripe.com.

20 Declan & Shane Ryan €650m

Aviation, up €70m

If Declan Ryan, 50, doesn't become a billionaire in the next decade, something will have gone horribly wrong with the master plan.

One of the sons of the late Tony Ryan, one of Ireland's best-known and bravest entrepreneurs, Declan is tearing up trees in the aviation space. He was one of the founders of Ryanair, when it was a single-aircraft operation flying out of Waterford. It was damn nearly called Tipperary Air.

As Ryanair grew, Ryan left to do his own thing. But not before banking over €260m from selling shares in the airline. He set about replicating the Ryanair low-cost model in other countries with phenomenal success.

Ryan made a 50-fold return on an investment in US airline start-up Allegiant, which floated in 2007. He pulled off the same trick with Singapore's Tiger Airlines in 2010. Ryan's main focus since then has been in Mexico and Latin America, where the Ryan family investment vehicle Irelandia owns a 46.2 per cent stake in Mexican airline VivaAerobus. It pulled a €165m IPO in February citing volatile market conditions. The airline was set up in 2006, with a €40m investment from the Ryans. It has mushroomed.

Last November, the airline stunned the industry with one of the biggest airline orders of recent years, when it inked a $5.1bn deal for 52 new airbus jets – the largest deal ever for Latin America. Irelandia is also building out a sister airline in Colombia.

Apart from low-cost airlines, Ryan is also involved in funding start-up and biotech companies, through Frontline Ventures and Growcorp. There are also extensive property interests in Wicklow, Brussels, Mexico and Hong Kong. Declan is one of the single biggest philanthropists in the country, through his One Foundation. Brother Shane is a highly successful stud farm operator in Kentucky and Tipperary.

21 Larry Goodman €650m

Beef, down €20m

The horse meat crisis last year hit the beef and meat processing industry across Europe and as one of the biggest players in the market, Goodman's vast sprawling ABP took a hit right in the kisser, though the burger part of the business accounted for less than 4 per cent of his €2.5bn per year total revenues. ABP is the largest privately owned beef processor in Europe and the biggest exporter of beef to continental Europe. Goodman's company chops up over a million moo cows each year and it's growing steadily, with new operations in Poland coming on stream last December.

Goodman – 76, but with the vigour of a man half that age – is the ultimate bounce-back story. He was a massive beef exporter to Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. However, his company collapsed in 1990, squashed by debts related to an Iraq beef deal following the invasion of Kuwait. But working with creditors he was able to rebuild the business and take control of the reins after it went into examinership. He hasn't looked back since then.

Goodman is one of the ballsiest investors in the recovering property market, evidenced by his €35m deal to buy the landmark Bank of Ireland headquarters on Baggot Street right in middle of the economic maelstrom.

He's spending another €40m to do it up but with a decent blue chip tenant, Goodman will make a huge return on the investment. He owns other property assets, including the Setanta centre in Dublin and Wilmington. His Parma Investments firm is behind the development of a major new shopping and residential scheme in Greenbank in Newry. He owns a stake in One 51 as well as a big part of the Blackrock Clinic and 20 per cent of the Galway Clinic.

22 David McMurty €635m

Engineering, down €10m

The phenomenal success of Apple's iPhones, iPads and iPods has helped to boost David McMurtry's fortune considerably over the last year.

The Clontarf industrialist, who attended the same school as members of U2, owns a €605m stake in the €1.7bn specialist measurement company Renishaw, which has seen its share price dip almost 7 per cent in the last year.

McMurtry, 74, developed a natty new way of measuring tiny bits of kit for the Concorde in the 1970s. Armed with these patents, he set up Renishaw in 1979, branching out into other precision-based engineering.

The engineer has since teamed up with the highly secretive Apple to play a key role in the wondrous innards of the ifamily devices. McMurtry built a €36m Eco house in Gloucestershire, complete with indoor bowling alley, squash court, a vast pool and a moat. He never moved in, preferring to live in a nearby converted barn instead. The house featured in the gripping finale of BBC ratings hit Sherlock featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in January, when it was used as the home of an evil newspaper baron.

Between increased dividends and pay, he earned almost €13.5m last year. McMurtry has pocketed over €60m in dividends alone since 2007.

23 Flately family €610m

Inheritance, down €80m

Mayo-born property tycoon Thomas J Flatley emigrated to Boston with just $32 in his pocket in the 1950s. He turned that tiny sum into a fortune well north of €1bn, through an extraordinary knack for buying and selling property, particularly commercial and retail real estate.

He died aged 76 in 2008, leaving his fortune to his children and charities. While inheritance taxes may have taken a bite, rising real estate markets in the US have clawed much of that back. The family is thought to be giving a lot away.

24 Mark Getty €605m

Photos, up €10m

Irish passport holder Mark Getty is the grandson of legendary oil tycoon John Paul Getty. Mark has made his own fortune by completely reinventing how pictures are viewed and sold on the internet.

He set up Getty Images in 1996 as a stock photo library but gradually realised how the ownership of images would become an absolutely essential part of the digital world. He sold most of the company to Hellman & Friedman in 2008, with the backers sharing around €850m in dividends over the next five years.

Then, in 2012, private equity group Carlyle signed a cheque for €2.49bn to buy the company. Getty and his partners now hold a 25 per cent stake in the fast-growing business.

The Getty dynasty fortune left Mark with a few baubles, including the 2,500-acre estate in Buckinghamshire where his father had constructed a replica of the Oval cricket grounds. There is also a hugely valuable collection of old books, including rare Shakespeare and Chaucer folios, as well as an extensive art collection ranging from old masters to Jeff Koons and Banksy. The family also own a 180ft yacht, the Lady Talitha.

25 Mike Lynch €590m

Technology, down €20m

Carrick-on-Suir's Dr Mike Lynch is one of the most successful technology visionaries in the world.

His fireman father and teacher mother moved the family to the UK soon after he was born. The Lynch smarts were evident pretty early on, when Mike's Cambridge thesis on how computers process information was one of the most borrowed works from the university library.

After a few false starts, Lynch set up Autonomy in 1996. The company helped improve the efficiency of computers and networks handling the increasing information load. Autonomy listed on the stock markets and, in 2011, HP bought it for $10.3bn, the largest ever buyout of a European technology firm.

Lynch, 48, bagged around €615m. Previous salaries and share sales also netted over €20m. However, following the deal, he was sacked by HP and legal spats erupted over the valuation of the company. Lynch has "utterly rejected" any allegations of wrongdoing. HP wrote down the value of the acquisition by a lumpy $8bn.

He has since set out on his own again, raising $1bn from investors to target really smart start-ups. His Invoke Capital has invested in Darklight – a "behavioural cyber defence platform" and Taggar, an augmented reality app. Lynch lives on a rural estate in Suffolk, where a model railway runs through the manicured grounds. He breeds rare sheep and cattle.

26 Eugene Murtagh €450m

Insulation, up €60m

Fears over global warming and diminishing energy reserves have made an absolute bundle for Cavan's Eugene Murtagh, who chairs listed building materials firm Kingspan.

The company was set up by Murtagh and his brother Brendan in the back of a pub in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, in the late 1960s. Kingspan floated on the stock markets in 1989, with a value of about €25m. Now it's worth almost 100 times that.

Eugene, 71, owns 30m shares worth about €390m. He sold over €41m worth of shares last year. He's also picked up around €15m in dividends in recent years.

Shares in Kingspan have soared over the last year, adding €150m onto Murtagh's fortune but valuations of other assets may have been previously over-egged by us. Former US vice president Al Gore's investment group Generation has a sizeable shareholding.

Murtagh and his family have investments in hotels in London and Europe. There are also stakes in Faxitron, a medical scan firm in the US. Brother Brendan was a high-profile casualty of the property crash.

27 Michael O'Leary €450m

Aviation, up €95m

Michael O'Leary has been reinvented as a warm, caring and even cuddly individual. It's not good to watch.

Ryanair is gentrifying itself as it bids to hoover up another 20 million or so 'middle-class' passengers. The kind of people who don't mind paying a bit extra to have a nicer journey.

It's a cunning ploy by O'Leary, 53, to keep the growth trajectory of Europe's biggest airline ticking over. Not one but two profit warnings have seen the share price retreat from massive highs over the summer but the shares are still up around 8 per cent over the last 12 months.

O'Leary's 51 million shares are worth about €321m. He's netted close to €125m in share sales and special dividends. That has been invested in property in the UK.

But his main interest outside of aviation is horse racing. His Gigginstown operation is now the biggest, or almost, national hunt racing outfits in Ireland. Each year he holds the largest hand of early declarations for Cheltenham. He would love to win another Gold Cup, after his 2006 victory with War of Attrition.

28 Bert Allen & Family €440m

Food, up €20m

Bert Allen's sale of the Bewley's Hotel Group to Red Cow owner Tom Moran for €570m in 2007 as markets were crashing was one of the greatest-timed business deals of all time. Within weeks of the deal closing, it had become clear that the world had changed quite spectacularly. The Wexford beef baron probably made around €200m on the deal.

The Allen family owns Linden Food Group, which includes Slaney Food and Irish Country Meat, which are thought to have sales of well over €150m per year.

As well as an extensive property portfolio in Germany and the UK, their Lanber Group owns assets in Dusseldorf and a carpark in Marl. The Allens have expanded rapidly into renewable energy, owning part of Gaelectric.

Bert is a collector of legendary Irish furniture designer Eileen Gray's work, and has restored her former home, Brownswood House in Wexford.

29 Eddie Haughey €430m

Animal pharmaceuticals, up €10m

Northern Ireland's richest man Eddie Haughey actually comes from this side of the border, as he was born in Louth. Haughey, also Lord Ballyedmond, is the driving force behind Norbrook Labs, one of the country's most successful animal healthcare and pharmaceutical companies.

According to its own website, Norbrook is "the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world".

Haughey began his career in the US selling animal drugs before returning to Newry to set up in business on his own. Over the last 40 years, Norbrook has proved to be a highly innovative company and has boosted its margins by making many of the raw ingredients used in its medicines. Haughey has expanded into Africa in a major way and is now one of the largest veterinarian suppliers on the continent. Haughey was paid just over €4m last year as sales at Norbrook topped €180m.

There are plenty of other assets, including a house on London's Belgrave Square that cost €12m in 2006. It has been completely renovated. There are homes in Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square and stately piles in Down and Cumbria, where he owns Corby Castle. There's also an island on Lake Victoria. The Sikorsky-flying Haughey is also a collector of rare plants and trees.

30 Paddy McNallY €390m

Formula One, down €15m

Donegal man McNally was a motoring journalist who saw the potential to make buckets of money out of Formula One advertising. He set up Allsports in the 1970s to handle advertising, sponsorship and corporate hospitality for Formula One as motor racing began to really take off in the television age. At one stage the company made profits of as much as €140m in one year. McNally sold out in 2006, netting around €275m. Swiss business magazine Bilan estimated his fortune to be close to €580m during the boom times.

McNally is pally with Sarah Ferguson, having dated her before she married Prince Andrew. Her daughters Beatrice and Eugenie holiday at his luxury Swiss chalet in Verbier each year. He is thought to own three humungous chalets in the chic ski resort, as well as a mega pad in St-Tropez. There's also a country estate in Wiltshire, once owned by James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

31 Bernie & John Gallagher €371m

Hotels, down €20m

Investors take note. Bernie and John Gallagher are getting back in the property game. John, the self-made millionaire and his wife Bernie, the brains behind the Jurys Doyle hotel business, make a formidable team. They pulled off one of the deals of the decade when taking the stock market-listed Jurys Doyle private in a €1bn deal, before paying off all the debt by selling the Burlington, Jurys Inns and other bits to cash-rich developers.

That left them with a bundle of nice hotels, including the Westbury. Dividends of €888m were shared between the extended Doyle families.

Bernie and John have been buying recently, spending over €20m to buy the River Lee Hotel in Cork from Nama developer Owen O'Callaghan and an office block on Dublin's Burlington Road. The couple invest through their Crownway vehicle and made money from the sale of Vordel.

They also have property assets in Poland and a shopping centre in Bradford, as well as an office block on Tottenham Court Road. Crownway is also one of the biggest shareholders in listed financial services company IFG.

John is lead singer in rock band Dakota 66, which has played at the Electric Picnic.

32 John Griffin €360m

Car hire, new entry

Griffin moved to the UK when aged just nine. Things didn't look too promising when he was flattened by TB – but he bounced back.

To earn extra money, the accountant drove a taxi. It led him to make his fortune. Founded with one car in Battersea in 1975, John and his son Liam set up a mini cab company which gradually evolved into Addison Lee, a 4,000-vehicle transport business, ranging from taxis to chauffeur driven limos and private coaches.

In April 2013, private equity giant Carlyle bought the company for close to €357m.

33 Brian & Michael Enright €350m

Logistics, up €120m

Father and son team Michael and Brian Enright have been one of Ireland's greatest untold business successes. They transformed a tiny west of Ireland haulage company into a really vast global logistics giant, through hard work, luck and some rip-roaring deals.

They merged their Walsh Western transport business with rival TDS in 2007 to create Syncreon in a €300m deal. This was bulked up through a series of other buyouts, with US private equity player GenX360 ultimately buying a majority stake in the business after staggered investments. The group now has around 12,000 employees and operations in 25 countries.

Syncreon was put up for sale last year, with advisers JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley said to be looking for a buyer for the $1bn company. However, a deal failed to materialise and Syncreon found itself locked in litigation with a former top executive – a one-time star American footballer.

A number of successful visits to the bond markets saw the Enrights and Syncreon's backers net huge dividends through a series of refinancing deals. Last year €75m was raised, partially to pay a dividend.

During the boom, family company Stowberon provided mezzanine finance to the developers of the €320m Millennium Park in Naas. Racehorse owning Michael lives in a castle in Fermoy, with Brian running Syncreon from Michigan.

34 Pat McDonagh €345m

Technology, up €10m

Former schoolteacher McDonagh may be the most successful technology investor at work in Ireland. He was one of the pioneers of e-learning, where people learn online rather than through text books.

He founded and successfully floated two e-learning firms on the Nasdaq – CBT Systems in 1995 and Riverdeep in 2000. He is said to have made over €211m out of the sale of shares in CBT and Riverdeep during the tech boom.

It wasn't the only big pay cheque, as he banked about €53m from selling his 63 per cent stake in listed tech firm Thirdforce in 2012. He is thought to have examined plans to re-enter the e-learning sector using a shell company to buy up a bundle of smaller outfits and merge them into something bigger. The plans seem to have been mothballed.

McDonagh's most recent big gamble has been on the recovery of the Irish residential property market. He is understood to be an investor in a housebuilding plan put together by New Generation Homes, which has spent upwards of €100m amassing a vast land bank in Dublin at knock down prices. He owns large tracts of land in North Dublin. McDonagh is also a shareholder in Avoca Learning, Radio Nova and Cork-based media firm digisoft. Previously he had been involved in the €260m buy out of Arnotts during the boom.

35 Michael Flatley €330m

Entertainment, down €15m

Lampooned mercilessly by Gift Grub for his Oirishness, Flatley has made a fortune from selling a cliched all-singing, all-dancing picture of assorted Celtic mumbo jumbo. But he has sold it brilliantly.

As well as being an absolutely epic dancer, Flatley is a magnificent showman. From his be-mulleted debut on the Riverdance Eurovision Song contest half-time show in 1994, Flatley has danced his way to global acclaim. After Riverdance, he developed his own blockbuster show 'Lord of the Dance', which was seen by over 60 million people in over 60 countries since its opening night in 1996.

Ticket sales are well north of €500m, with Flatley banking a really sizeable portion of each ticket sold. There are two shows circumnavigating the globe as well as a couple of less well-known spin-offs.

Apart from his Castle Hyde estate in Cork, where he spent over €27m on a restoration project, Flatley also owns palatial mansions in the Caribbean, New York, Beverly Hills, London and Villefranche. He's also thought to have invested a big lump with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group, which has seen its share price rise 30 per cent over the last year.

Last year it emerged that Flatley had been in talks with Michael Jackson about doing a show before the King of Pop died. That would have been something.

36 Frank Dunne €320m

Retail, down €25m

Last year marked something of a comeback for Dunnes Stores, which had suffered from brutal competition in the Republic's €9bn grocery market. Dunne is the largest shareholder and managing director of the biggest Irish-owned retailer in the country.

Having been hit hard by Tesco and German discounters Aldi and Lidl, Dunnes Stores was incredibly aggressive in 2013, boosting its market share up to almost 24 per cent.

However, margins in this sector are paper thin. Dunnes expanded fast during the boom and was hit by weak demand at the wrong time. However, a recovery in the value of property assets has helped. The incredibly low-profile Dunne, 70, lives on a stud farm in Meath.

37 Seamus Mulligan €320m

Pharmaceuticals, up €100m

Former Elan executive Seamus Mulligan has seen his fortune soar over the last four years. The pharmaceutical entrepreneur co-founded drug company Azur Pharma in 2005.

In 2012, Mulligan pulled off a stunning €380m deal by merging his smaller Azur with Nasdaq-listed Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Mulligan, 53, cashed in €70m worth of shares straight away and has trimmed his stake further since then, with €19m worth of shares sold in August last.

Between a stake in his own name and those held by Barrymore, a family trust, he has an interest in around €270m worth of shares.

Mulligan spent €14m to buy the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds home on Ailesbury Road back in 2007. It was sold last June for just €4.5m. He invested in property too, emerging as part of a consortium that bought the Four Seasons Hotel in Prague. The consortium also included former Late Late Show host Gay Byrne and ex-Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick.

The Athlone-based tycoon is also involved with Circ Pharma, which he has helped fund in a debt-for-equity deal, and a number of biotech start-ups.

38 Tim Martin €315m

Pubs, up €105m

Belfast-born Tim Martin is a giant in the pub trade. The 6' 5" publican owns a 27 per cent stake in €1.1bn listed UK pub firm Wetherspoons. Shares have soared over 54 per cent in the last year, valuing his stake at over €305m. Wetherspoons has also entered the Irish market, picking up pubs in Cork and south Co Dublin.

The company has plans to buy up to 50 pubs in Ireland over the next couple of years as asset values are at rock bottom. Mullet-wearing Martin has bagged over €10m in dividends in recent years.

39 Nargaret Heffernan €300m

Retail, down €20m

When Ben Dunne Snr opened his first shop on Cork's Patrick Street in 1944, few would have twigged that it was the beginning of one of Ireland's foremost business dynasties. His daughter, Margaret Heffernan, is the best-known figure at the helm of the company, holding the second-biggest stake in Dunnes Stores.

A famously tough operator, Heffernan has helped steady Dunnes after a wobbly 2012, and the retailer is back building market share. However it's not without a few scarps. Heffernan has been taking the fight to landlords as she seeks to slash the enormous Dunnes rent bill. She's had some success so far.

She and her family are in the process of building a sprawling 15,000sqm compound in Stillorgan, by banging together three neighbouring houses. The project, which was initially kicked back by planners over lack of detail about location of trees, features an indoor swimming pool and a cinema.

40 Shane Smith €295m

Media, New entry

Smith's Irish parents reared him in Montreal but he kept returning to Ireland, spending a year as a barman in the Baggot Inn and sinking pints in Kehoes off Grafton Street.

He now runs Vice Media, which initially started as a low-circulation hipster magazine and is now one of the most successful digital media companies in the world, a magazine, a TV station, a record label, and an advertising agency with such clients as Vodafone, a film production company and a publishing imprint. Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox bought a 5 per cent stake for €51m, valuing the whole company at over €1bn and Smith's stake close to €300m.

"We are quite sexy so everyone wants to buy us. I previously said I wanted to be the next CNN, ESPN and MTV rolled up into one. Then I realised CNN sold to Time Warner, ESPN sold to Disney and MTV sold to Viacom. You kind of have to sell your soul to keep going. You need tremendous assets in marketing, sales, advertising and so on, to be on the global stage," he said last year.

41 Tom Roche & family €290m

Hotels and windfarms, up €10m

The Roche family set up Ireland's most valuable company, CRH, in the 1970s. They have long since severed their interest with the cement giant, but it formed the basis for the Ailesbury Road family's substantial wealth.

Tom Roche steered the family into toll roads and other infrastructure. NTR sold the West-Link toll bridge to the State for €420m during the boom. However, the windfall was spent through an ill-advised move into solar power. The company's shares – which trade on the grey market – slumped from €6 to as low as 25 cent.

However, over the last year, things have improved, with shares rising to over €1, the Roche 40 per cent stake now worth about €44m. A distribution of capital also netted Roche around €39.6m.

Wife Anne is part of the Doyle family dynasty, owning a 25 per cent of the rump of the former Jurys Doyle hotel business. Other assets include a luxury yacht charter business in the US. We may have overvalued other assets in recent years.

42 Niall Wall €280m

Glass bottles, down €12m

Wall owns a 9.5 per cent stake in Paul Coulson's glass bottle and tin can giant Ardagh, which is snailing its way towards a US stock market flotation. This would value the company somewhere north of €3bn.

Wall has been instrumental in the aggressive growth of the company, which has spent north of €2bn on buyouts in the last two years. He's been well compensated though.

Last year, Wall, a former CEO of Tipperary Crystal dropped €5.25m on a magnificent home in Blackrock.

43 David Power €270m

Bookmaking, down €10m

David Power is the 'Power' in Paddy Power bookmakers, Europe's most valuable gambling company.

Co-founder Power merged his chain of betting shops with Stewart Kenny's and John Corcoran's businesses to create Paddy Power in 1988. He's the largest private shareholder.

Shares have risen sevenfold over the last six years. However, over the last 12 months, Paddy Power's share price has slipped around 4 per cent, valuing his 3.86 million shares at €240m. The 68-year-old sold close to €17m worth of shares and has earned about €13m in dividends over the last couple of years. He retired from the board last year.

The Rathgar-based bookie also has property interests, including a stake in Sean Mulryan's Baltimore wharf in London.

44 The O'Flaherty family €270m

Car sales, up €22m

The O'Flaherty family are behind one of Ireland's biggest private companies, the MSL Volkswagen and Mercedes car importers.

Over the last 60-odd years, they've built up a substantial fortune – but it was badly hit by the downturn, as automobile sales collapsed.

Last year was the best in a while for the motor tycoon's family. Their O'Flaherty Holdings company returned to profit, generating €9.1m, compared with a loss of €25m a year earlier. Sales also rose 6 per cent to €304.3m.

The main activity of the group is the importation of motor vehicles into Ireland, including the Mercedes brand. However, it is also involved in the manufacture and distribution of Ariel access equipment, and the fabrication and installation of custom heating equipment, ventilation and air-conditioning products in the USA.

About €8m in dividends was paid out in 2012, a far cry from the boom-time dividend of €29m back in 2003.

Nigel and Michael O'Flaherty own much of the company, although Nigel transferred a block of shares to daughters Lauren and Nicola.

45 Michael Smurfit €270m

Investments, down €8m

Michael Smurfit turned a small, family-run cardboard company into one of the biggest global players in the packaging industry through a series of spectacular deals, ruthless cost-management and a big dollop of the "vision thing". He became extraordinarily rich in the process.

The first man in Europe to own a private jet, he sold out to private equity group Madison Dearborn for $3.5bn in 2002 and a subsequent 2007 IPO netted Smurfit close to €320m. There had been other share sales, dividends and bumper wages over the previous decade.

He once said that he had made more money out of the stock market than he had from his time at Smurfit. But then Lehman Brothers exploded and the markets crashed.

Smurfit was hit extremely hard, but the recovery in markets has improved his fortune. He spent €40m to take control of the exclusive K Club in 2012.

The Monaco-based bon viveur lives "one heck of a lifestyle", he told the Sunday Independent last year. The twice-divorced septuagenarian has been dating a 30-something Russian beauty for the last decade. He owns a 165ft luxury yacht worth around €53m as well as a tremendously valuable art collection, jam-packed with Jack Yeats, Paul Henrys and other Irish artists. There are also property assets and a stake in AIM-listed postal software group Escher, as well as in online gaming group Gameaccount.

But Smurfit wants to clear one thing up. It's about his taste for fine wine. The story goes that he only drinks Chateau Petrus, one of the finest clarets around. The 1947 vintage sells for over €2,000 per bottle. "And this is another fallacy about me – that I drink Petrus every day. I probably have Petrus once a year – if I'm lucky. And it's only bought for me by somebody else – because they think I like it, because the newspapers have it that I like it."

46 Walter Beatty & family €265m

Hotels, down €10m

The Beatty family are well-known Dublin legal eagles. The bulk of the family fortune, though, comes from a 25 per cent stake in the Doyle Collection hotel group – formerly Jurys Doyle Hotels.

The group was bought out for €1.4bn during the boom, debt was paid down and the Doyle and Beatty families were left with a bundle of hotels and a bullet-proof balance sheet. Vast dividends of €888m were divided up.

The Beattys are also major stock market investors, having owned stakes in the likes of Smurfit, DCC and CRH.

47 Roma Downey €260m

TV production, up €5m

Derry-born actress Roma Downey, 53, appeared in the Abbey before moving to the States to seek her fortune. Boy, did she find it.

Downey became a TV star, headlining the mushy Touched By An Angel mini-series for much of the 1990s. But when she teamed up with husband Mark Burnett – a former paratrooper turned reality TV pioneer – the money really started to flood in.

Burnett has been one of the most influential players in television in recent years, creating shows such as The Apprentice, The Voice and quiz show format Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year-Old?. But the big hit was Survivor. Crucially, Burnett held on to all the rights for the show, which has earned close to €170m in fees over the last decade. He sold 50 per cent of his company to Hearst in 2012, valuing the business north of €480m.

48 The Green family €231m

Investments, down €19m

Before he died in July 2012, Donegal-born Hugh Green rang the Sunday Independent to tell us that we'd seriously undercooked our estimates of his wealth. It was double what we had published.

The investor and real-estate magnate left Ireland in 1949 to move to New Zealand, where he made a fortune out of construction. "I could find ways of making money hidden in a contract that nobody else could," he wrote in his 2011 autobiography.

Green gave away more than €40m to good causes over his life and following his death a foundation was set up to continue the charitable mission.

"If you were a Catholic organisation you were in with a good chance," recalled his son John, a well-known harness racing trainer. "And if you were a Catholic Irish organisation you were in, full stop!"

The New Zealand Business Review pegged the family's wealth at €231m last year.

49 Dominic Sylvester €225m

Reinsurance, up €23m

Bermuda-based Dominic Sylvester set up an insurance firm in 1992, merging it with a larger firm, Enstar, in 2001. He became chief executive of the new group.

The shaven-headed Sylvester owns 11.2 per cent of the €1.5bn-valued Nasdaq reinsurance group. Shares have risen more than 10 per cent over the last year. He sold over €38m worth of shares in 2009 and 2010 and did a €32m share-buyback deal with the company. Sylvester is also a shareholder in English rugby club Saracens.

Irish Independent

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