Thursday 30 March 2017

Roche family v Debenhams: Media-shy owners who built business from ashes of Black and Tans attack

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

The Roche family hit the headlines in 2006 after selling most of its empire to British giant Debenhams for €29m plus.

And the family that once owned Roches Stores are still landlords at a number of Debenhams outlets.

Details of a clash between the two sides emerged in court documents associated with an examinership process of the Irish Debenhams arm.

The media-shy Roches still own properties on Henry Street, Dublin, and St Patrick's Street, Cork, where upward-only rent agreements are in place.

Family member Richard Roche has accused Debenhams of filing a "tainted" examinership application.

Debenhams rejected the accusation and accused him of looking for commercially sensitive information, according to reports in the 'Irish Times'.

The hugely successful empire was founded by William Roche, a farmer's son who had trained in Cork's most famous department store, Cash's (now Brown Thomas).

After the major setback of seeing his premises burned during the infamous attack on Cork by the Black and Tans in 1920, William Roche's business took off.

By the late 1920s, the family was able to buy a key premises on Henry Street in Dublin - and, 10 years later, added another major shop in Limerick to their operation.

After William's death on the eve of the Second World War, the family fortunes continued to soar under the guidance of his widow Kathleen, who ran the business until her son, William Jnr, was able to take the reins himself.

William Jnr worked in the family business from 1937, two years before his father's death, and was later joined by his two younger brothers, Raymond and Stanley.

By 1950, all three brothers were working with the family business, which switched in emphasis from Cork to Dublin. William Jnr ran the increasingly important Dublin operation while his two younger brothers gravitated towards the provinces, Stanley taking the helm in Cork and Raymond in Limerick.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the operation grew to include Galway and various booming suburbs such as Wilton in Cork and Blackrock in Dublin. By now, their operation was financially directed from the Isle of Man - a fact which ensured that no accounts ever had to be published in Ireland.

Control of the business remained firmly within the family though scions of the Roches emigrated both to England and America.

Irish Independent

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