Saturday 25 October 2014

Mario gets ready to poke fun at the bailout bankers

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Mario Rosenstock. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Buyout funds and banks - including the bailed-out ones - are sensing the need to laugh again, comedian Mario Rosenstock told me over coffee last week.

"There's definitely been a noticeable increase in the number of banks and funds looking for bookings."

The bankers and financiers are also ready to be lampooned over their role in the crash. "It used to be 'don't mention what happened'," said Mario. "But now they're ready to face it. It's time to stop looking back and time to start living again."

High-profile corporate events were a feature of the boom.

"The builders are back," laughs Mario. "And so are the comedians. This could be a cyclical thing, the beginning of it all happening over again. It's only a matter of time before we see houses for €14m again."

Mario is getting ready for the biggest gig of 
his life next weekend when he's set to bring Miriam, Enda, Joan, Roy and a host of other characters to nearly 3,500 people at the Marquee in Cork. Daire O Briain is the only other comedian to have filled the joint.

MCD boss Denis Desmond, who is promoting Mario's Gift Grub Live Tour 3, believes that ticket sales are a real barometer of an economy. People buying tickets to live shows indicates stronger consumer confidence.

"Live ticket sales are one of the last things to go in a recession... but they are also one of the first things to come back when an economy begins to recover," he said.

Kennelly's $25mprint revolution

Jerry Kennelly has gambled $25m of his own money to utterly transform the print world. The former newspaper photographer - who once tracked down the "Irish" Carlos the Jackal during his newshound days, sold his Stockbyte business to Getty Images for $110m during the good times.

"It was clear that the market was going to crash," he smiles. "Valuations are down 70pc since then."

Kennelly initially ploughed around $10m into setting up his next business Tweak, which is aiming to become the big enchilada in online printing. "It might have been a little ahead of its time," he told me last week. There were a few teething problems at the start but now things are really beginning to hum."

He's now put up to $25m into funding the company and it may need "a few million". But Kennelly isn't taking in outside cash to grow the start-up. The Killorglin-based entrepreneur will hold on to 100pc as he doesn't need to have to manage "egos". And there's still plenty of cash in the kitty after the Stockbyte exit.

Kennelly says that 2014 is going to be the year when Tweak really takes off. He's inked major deals with online printing groups and big, big retailers and there could be a number of serious partnerships on the way. Tweak will have 2m bits of content in seven languages ready to roll by the end of the year. This means that business or consumers can slash the amount of money they spend on getting anything from brochures to invitations done up. Online printing accounts for just 5pc of the entire print market, with forecasts that the size of the industry could double each year. Tweak could be potentially worth "hundreds of millions". It's a licence to... er, print money.

Jerry Kennelly has gambled $25m of his own money to utterly transform the print world. The former newspaper photographer - who once tracked down the "Irish" Carlos the Jackal during his newshound days, sold his Stockbyte business to Getty Images for $110m during the good times.

Severed heads and Vikings give boost to Ashford Studio

Joe O'Connell is quite a visionary. He made his first fortune making patio heaters in China and selling them to Home Depot and Ikea. Then there were pre-dressed Christmas trees.

But his €22m Ashford film studios in Wicklow could be the best one yet....if the government moves to cut a deal on commercial rates.

Shelley O'Connell showed me round as the third series of the $35m hit TV show The Vikings was filming last week. I can't give the plot away, but there's lots of severed heads and a particularly yukky arm.

Vikings producer Morgan O'Sullivan was in the back lot with some bankers. "Irish banks are getting back into funding film," he told me. AIB stumped up cash for The Vikings.

However, O'Sullivan warned that there's a looming crisis as we need more studio space to meet demand. Otherwise big productions won't come here.

Some, including Emerald City and Dracula have already moved elsewhere.

Joe O'Connell is meeting with local councillors this week to present a case for a deal on commercial rates for the actual studio buildings. These, he feels should be classed as infrastructure.

A deal here could open the door for O'Connell to create a mini Hollywood in the middle of Wicklow....using the sets from shows like The Vikings as a tourist attraction. It makes an awful lot of sense.

Incoming IDA boss gets 'Amchamed' over lunch

If Martin Shanahan, the Forfas guy set to take over as head of the IDA later this year, wasn't sure what his new role involved before taking the job, he definitely does now.

The all-singing, all-dancing American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) is the slickest and most persuasive lobby group in town.

Last Friday, Shanahan headed down to the Four seasons for the annual 4th of July bunfest thrown by the multinational lobbying outfit at the Four Seasons.

And of course, I got my hands on the seating plans. Who was sitting beside Shanahan and getting the opportunity to bend his ear?

While Paypal boss and AmCham president Louise Phelan hosted the top table, there were other powerful and vested interests there too.

Icon boss Ciaran Murray, who bagged a €7m pay package in 2013, was at the table along with Aramark's Donal O'Brien. Aramark is the biggest multinational employer on this island.

Also there celebrating Uncle Sam's overthrow of the colonial yoke were IBM boss Eamonn Sinnott, Accenture chief Mark Ryan and aviation leasing boss SEan Flannery of GECAS.

Between concerns over EU probes into multinational tax deals, tweaks in the Finance bill to boost the IFSC aircraft leasing sector and maintaining the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, the multinationals have a lot of elbow tugging to do. AIB corporate banker Simon Scroope was also at the top table.

Also invited were Twitter's Brenda O'Connell, IBM's Peter O'Neill, UPC chief Magnus Ternsjo, A&L Goodbody managing partner Julian Yarr, Microsoft heavyhitter Ronan Murtagh and healthcare backer Manus Rogan.

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