Business Irish

Saturday 3 December 2016

When The old lady said 'no', she meant every single word

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

Mary Guiney
Mary Guiney

For most of the second half of its 162-year history, Clerys was dominated by the Guiney family - in particular, the formidable Mary Guiney.

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Mrs Guiney, who died in 2004 at the age of 103, adamantly refused all offers to sell the retailer for almost four decades.

The Guiney family first entered the Clerys story in 1941 when Mrs Guiney's husband Denis purchased the store for £250,000.

Mr Guiney - a man with a genius for retail - pitched the store firmly at Middle Ireland and Clerys was particularly popular with out-of-town shoppers. When Mr Guiney passed away in 1967, control of the store passed to his widow Mary who became chairwoman.

Mrs Guiney had a 52pc shareholding in Clerys with the remainder of the shares being held by various members of the extended Guiney family.

Over the following 37 years, she doggedly refused to sell her shareholding even as the rise of the chain stores led to Clerys' market being steadily eroded. This created tension with other members of the Guiney family who wanted to cash in their investment.

Several family members sold their shares with the principal buyer, AIB Investment Managers, having a near-10pc stake in Clerys at one stage. Dunnes Stores, which was then under the leadership of Ben Dunne Junior, was frequently mentioned as a possible Clerys suitor in the 1980s. Corporate raider John Teeling also ran his slide rule over the retailer.

But all to no avail. Mrs Guiney was determined to remain true to her late husband's legacy.

Even her death failed to alter the situation.

She bequeathed her shares to a handful of family members who shared her vision for Clerys - and control remained firmly in family hands... until Bank of Ireland appointed receivers to the company in 2012, bringing 71 years of Guiney family control to an end.

Sunday Indo Business

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