Business Irish

Sunday 24 September 2017

When Harry met John – the Mandarin diaries

Nick Webb

Nick Webb

WHAT do Grand Canal Theatre developer Harry Crosbie, former AIB chairman and current Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland, Ireland's biggest industrial group Glen Dimplex and Kennedy Wilson chief Bill McMorrow all have in common – apart from having a real interest in Ireland's recovery?

Unlike tens of thousands of SME owners and entrepreneurs, they have all got face time with Department of Finance Secretary General John Moran. Don't let the floppy haircut or the silly beard fool you, Moran is a serious player. He's possibly the most powerful civil servant in the country. It's his job to make things happen. The civil service is, of course, the unelected government of Ireland. Always has been, always will be.

I was given copies of Moran's desk diaries last week.

Kennedy Wilson is perhaps the biggest overseas investor in the recovery of the Irish property market. Apart from buying BoI's property asset management business and buying an equity stake in BoI, Bill McMorrow's group has bought the Gasworks beside Google, spent €80m on Clancy Barracks and part of the Treasury Holdings portfolio.

Last week it bought €111m worth of debt associated with the Shelbourne Hotel. Moran's diary lists a scheduled phone call with McMorrow in February, followed by a dinner on February 27, 2013. There was also a scheduled meeting with Kennedy Wilson in the Connaught Hotel in London on December 4. Moran was pencilled in to meet Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland earlier that evening.

Harry Crosbie, the visionary developer who re-invigorated the docklands before being flattened by Nama, was scheduled to meet Moran on December 13.

Billionaire Martin Naughton's Glen Dimplex, which is run by Sean O'Driscoll, was also down for plenty of Moran time. With meetings scheduled for February in the Westin Hotel, a "catch up on the economy" meeting is set for September and another for December, according to his diaries.

Moran had plenty of other interesting little rendezvous during 2013 including "an in-camera lunch at KBC bank", a meeting with Sunderland FC owner and billionaire Ellis Short's buyout firm Kildare Partners and a Chinese regulatory visit "re aircraft financing".

Ireland has an open door for the powerful and well connected. Big business insiders are far better represented than small business owners.

Irish Independent

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