Catholic tycoon donates half of wealth to church
HE once went head-to-head with Ben Dunne in opening his Total Fitness gyms across Ireland and before that he owned a chain of Irish shops.
Twelve years ago Albert Gubay told RTE he was doing a "50-50 deal with God" to give away his €300m fortune to the Catholic Church.
Now, at the age of 82, he has done even more, giving almost his entire (€530m) estate to a new charitable foundation, keeping less than €10m to see out his old age.
In 1998 he told an RTE documentary that he had told God in his prayers: "Make me a millionaire and you can have half of my money."
The Welsh businessman made his fortune from supermarkets in Ireland, Britain, New Zealand and the US.
In Dublin he set up the 'Three Guys' discount retail chain in the 1970s, which was eventually bought out by H Williams in 1986. The same year H Williams collapsed, being replaced by Quinnsworth, which has since been taken over by Tesco Ireland.
Ten years later Mr Gubay came into competition with Mr Dunne as each entrepreneur planned to open a string of gyms across the country, both starting out with centres in Blanchardstown, Dublin.
Mr Gubay's Total Fitness chain went on to have four sites in Dublin and one each in the cities of Galway, Limerick and Cork. He sold the fitness chain in 2004 for €75m.
Mr Gubay also tried to develop land close to the marina at Greystones, Co Wicklow. The county council had been in ongoing discussions with Mr Gubay for 12 years before refusing the offer from his company, Kirkham Enterprises, due to local anger over his proposals to build a large hotel and four five-storey apartment blocks.
A Roman Catholic, he will continue running his companies until he dies and hopes to push the value of his empire to more than €1bn. After his death, the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation will receive an estimated income of €25m a year from the businesses.
Mr Gubay has stipulated that half the income must be invested in the Catholic Church, in line with his "pact". The rest can be distributed at the discretion of the trustees.
Mr Gubay lives in Santon on the Isle of Man with his second wife, Carmel.
John Nugent, the chairman of the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation, said: "Albert is a very frugal man and has dedicated his life to good causes."
Mr Gubay opened the first store in his Kwik Save supermarket chain in 1965 and sold the retail empire for €1.1m in 1973. The chain went into administration in 2007.
His property group Derwent Holdings is among several dozen companies being transferred to the new charitable trust. A number of businessmen have handed over much of their wealth to charity in recent years.
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