Business Irish

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Secret millionaires? Not so secret anymore

Eoghan Williams

While many entrants on the Rich List are household names happy to entertain former Miss Worlds, own football clubs and generally use the media for self-promotion, several of the richest Irish people jealously guard their privacy. Others are simply little known at home.



Irish-American philanthropist William Bollinger refused all interviews when he donated €1.6m to the V&A Museum for a wing housing Cartier diamond tiaras and other major European jewellry.

Bollinger (no relation to the champagne dynasty) made two donations to the UK Labour Party totalling €250,000. However he has reportedly retreated from London to Geneva, unhappy with UK tax laws.

Bollinger and his wife Judith, a director in the City, own a house in Cork and donated £300,000 to the West Cork Art Centre in 2008. He also supports stem cell research for heart attack patients.

Paul Williams, who sold his Dun Laoghaire headquartered renewable energy firm Trinergy to International Power for up to €870m, is even more elusive. There is no record of him ever having commented in public.

Pearse Mee got his name in the papers far more often when he was a struggling entrepreneur in the Eighties than at present -- even given his multimillionaire status. He co-founded AMT-SYBEX, a software company that supplies British utilities. At one point the former Tory leader William Hague was on the board. Mee is a keen horse breeder.

Neil O'Leary, son of a creamery manager, is a solicitor from Midleton who owns the private equity firm behind Topaz petrol stations. He likes golf and skiing.

The Keatings -- Liam, Niamh, Catriona and Stephen -- owns Kepak, the Meath meat processors founded by their late father Noel. It has a turnover in excess of €750m and is expanding into convenience brands such as Big Al's and Rustlers.

Others tycoons are hugely successful in London, but barely known in their native Ireland. Paul Smith sold the rights to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with his personal stake fetching £27m (then €40m). He put some of his money into a low-budget film -- Slumdog Millionaire. The executive producer of the film has seen it win eight Oscars and gross a cool $3bn. The Belfastman has commissioned a 100ft motor yacht, and following the Millionaire buyout he and wife Sarah toured the vineyards of Bordeaux with Jasper and Hazel Carrott -- a surprise present from the comedian and his wife.

Knock-born entrepreneur Frank Salmon moved to London in 1984. He bought data storage firm CMS Peripherals for €3 plus debt 20 years ago. Salmon, a passionate follower of Mayo GAA, met his wife at a London Mayo Association dinner dance.

David Cantillon, son of a Cork doctor, is little known in his native Ireland, but is frequently seen holding court at City functions. The UCC graduate is a managing director of Morgan Stanley having been poached from Goldman Sachs which he once represented in City swimming contests.

James Garvey, also ex-Goldman Sachs is now head of capital markets at Lloyds. The TCD engineering graduate has come out of retirement following stints at Citigroup and UBS to become a headline-grabbing recruit to Lloyds.

Educated at Blackrock College and described as "low- profile", Garvey is known to have cycled 350km around Mont Blanc for charity.

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