Friday 30 September 2016

Nick Webb’s diary: Return to boomtime bonuses as rainmakers make hay

Published 17/05/2015 | 02:30

Ireland rugby star Rob Kearney holds a 20pc stake in Mason Alexander
Ireland rugby star Rob Kearney holds a 20pc stake in Mason Alexander
Orla Brady and Alanis Morrissette star in 'The Price of Desire'

Stockbroking and investment bank bonuses have hit their highest level since 2006, according to Andrew Lynch of fast-growing recruitment firm Mason Alexander.

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Some rainmakers are getting 50pc of salary when the bonuses arrive. It's a sector that's seen a huge amount of movement in recent weeks.

"There is definitely a demand in the equities and M&A space in Dublin - and with a healthy pipeline for firms in 2015 and beyond, staff across all levels have been handsomely remunerated for 2014," Lynch told me just last week.

Instead of simply binning offers from Irish finance houses, Irish dealmakers in London are now showing signs of interest again.

"In recent years professionals working in investment banks and M&A houses in London have been reluctant to move home due to such a severe drop in compensation; with a return to healthy bonuses this year in Dublin, this will certainly help bridge that gap"

Lynch is a man in a hurry. At just 28, his Mason Alexander business is set to turn over around €1.5m after just two years of operation. He's got good backers too. Ireland rugby star Rob Kearney holds a 20pc stake in Mason Alexander with financier and corporate raider Pierce Casey another 20pc.

Casey, who made big money out of recruitment firm Walker Hammill before moving into private equity, is chairman of the firm. He famously bought one French IT group for one franc in 1993 - before selling it a year later for $12m.

If anyone has an eye for a good thing...it's Casey.

'Price of Desire' film row settled

A nasty enough legal row between film-maker Mary McGuckian - sister of NTR boss Rosheen and daughter of Masstock agribusiness titan Alastair - and Spire developer turned movie mogul Garrett Kelleher has been settled, according to my spies.

Kelleher's movie production group Lightstream Pictures helped produce McGuckian's recently released The Price of Desire, which is based on the life of iconic Irish designer Eileen Gray.

The elegant film details her relationship with superstar architect Le Corbusier, who defaced one of her most famous projects - a modernist villa known as E-1027 in the south of France.

The romantic drama, which received €300,000 in development loans from the Irish Film Board, starred Irish actor Orla Brady as Gray, 1990s Ironic singer Alanis Morissette and Swiss actor Vincent Perez.

New Marcasel Productions, part of Kelleher's Lightstream, fell out with McGuckian's EG Films over a €250,000 finance facility related to the movie.

Lawyers were assembled - but my understanding is that a peace deal has been brokered.

Plum ESB chairman job remains empty

One of the plummest jobs in the gift of the government remains unfilled.

Glen Dimplex squillionaire and Bordeaux vineyard owner Lochlann Quinn stepped down from his job as chairman of the ESB in January. He'd done a seven year stint for the State. Ulster Bank director Ellvena Graham has been holding the fort on an interim basis since then.

My sources tell me that the job is being offered to all manner of corporate heavyweights....but as yet there have been no really serious bites.

"The ESB chair vacancy will be filled through the Public Appointments Service process, which is currently underway," says the slow moving Department of Energy.

The part-time job pays €75,075 per year.

Would Labour minister Alex White dare give it to a party loyalist?

Buying a Picasso or a house on Shrewsbury Road: which had better returns since 1997?

Last week, Picasso's Women of Algiers broke records by selling for almost €160m - almost the same value as Anne Heraty's listed recruitment firm CPL. But what has delivered the best returns? Picasso, property, Irish shares or gold?

Picasso: up 462pc

The Picasso that sold last week for $179.4m (€157.1m) previously changed hands in November 1997 for $31.9m.

Prime Dublin property: up 294pc

Dublin's Shrewsbury Road is the primest bit of real estate in the country. In 1997 a detached house was bought in an off-market deal by Ardagh boss Paul Coulson for an estimated IR£1.3m (€1.65m). The Property Price Register reveals that in August 2014 a house on the road was sold for €6.5m.

Wider Dublin property: up 188pc

Dublin property prices rose at a far higher rate than the rest of the country during the boom and recovered much earlier and much faster than everywhere else. In 1997 the average Dublin price was €122,036. Now it's closer to €352,000. Average property prices across Ireland have doubled since 1997, rising from €102,223 to about €201,000 according to Daft.ie.

Gold: up 300pc

Back in November 1997, the gold price averaged $306 per ounce. Now it's closer to $1,224. In the intervening period it went as high as $1,900 in August 2011. Timing is all.

ISEQ: up 65pc

The Irish stock market was at 3,720 when the Picasso was sold in 1997. After 18 topsy turvy years, plus one crash, it has recovered strongly to almost 6,200.

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