Robert 'Pino' Harris
MARTIN FITZPATRICK THE two things to know about Robert 'Pino' Harris is that he sold trucks and made money. Friends from way back say that, for Harris himself, the first is vastly more important than the second.
Compilers of Irish 'rich lists' estimate Harris's wealth to be around ?84m and much of this seems to have come from spectacular, sometimes controversial, property deals. "Pino'd get a bigger charge out of a trucks deal than he would from the most sophisticated property coup," a long-time acquaintance says.
The foundation stone of the notoriously publicity-shy businessman's fortune lies in his acquiring the franchise for the Japanese Hino range of trucks. The story the motor trade believes is that Harris was entertaining an initial group of Hino executives when he was asked his advice on a specific truck problem.
He excused himself, donned overalls and, still under the scrutiny of his visitors, solved the tricky engine problem, before returning to the negotiations. The Hino people knew they had their man.
Harris had little formal education. But he now has a score of companies directing his interests, many of which are unlimited, which means he doesn't have to submit returns to the Companies Office. Isuzu is another motor interest, and for a while he ran the Kia dealership.
Mostly he is now famous for his property exploits. He was in the midst of deep controversy over the purchase in 1991 of Carysfort College and the quick resale to UCD. There have been other nimble purchases elsewhere. He was part of the consortium that was involved in the ?50m revamp of Aristotle Onassis's yacht, the Christina.