Thursday 8 December 2016

Party boys get used to life without the bling

The Mansfields have had to say goodbye to the Rolls, the Rolexes and the rest, writes Niamh Horan

Published 14/08/2011 | 05:00

Jim Mansfield Snr at his home in Tassaggart
Jim Mansfield Snr at his home in Tassaggart

'MONEY is all that matters." So said Jimmy Mansfield Junior. He was right. Now that it's gone, life for the Mansfield dynasty has changed beyond recognition.

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Gone are the pearl and diamond-faced Rolexes, the jacuzzi on the roof of Palmerstown house, the shiny red Ferrari. The time when you could send "the Rolls", as they called it, to fetch girlfriends for parties and deliver them to your door is now, too, a distant memory.

As is the stretch Hummer, the nights of buying drinks for the entire room and trips on the private jet to Marbella.

As millionaire families go, Jim Mansfield Snr, the patriarch of the family, and his son Tony lived a relatively quiet life, in contrast to Jimmy Jnr and PJ, who lived the high life and they didn't care who knew about it.

Jim Mansfield had come up the hard way, from young boy growing up in a farmer's cottage in Brittas to head of a billion-euro empire at the height of the boom.

It was a long way from working as a farm hand from the age of 14 to becoming the tzar of Citywest and the flamboyant spending that followed seemed to become the trademark to the Mansfields' phenomenal success.

Trophies such as a Picasso in the drawing room of Jim Mansfield's large house would be "dismissed with a wave of his hand" as he worked towards even greater goals.

But his sons Jimmy Jnr and PJ happily indulged in the high life and anyone who knew them knew too that they were "extremely generous" with money when they had it -- not only for themselves but also for their friends.

"I am in a very unusual state at the moment that if I have anything to leave, I can leave it to any one of them and I would be happy going knowing that that one person would make sure the others are well looked after," Jim Mansfield said recently. "That's unusual because most families would be worried that they can't let a child be involved in a will but I trust all of them completely. I wouldn't have any worries. I think the whole thing will be divided up fairly."

Jimmy Jnr is by far the most flamboyant and outgoing of the Mansfields. He spent the Celtic Tiger years becoming one of Ireland's most high-profile party boys and he wasn't afraid to flash the cash.

But he also developed a reputation after a number of brushes with the law.

Last year, he was convicted for a second time of drink driving, following an incident that happened just two weeks after his first arrest. He was fined €2,000 and banned from driving for two years. He was arrested in early October 2009 after being caught driving a

Porsche while over the limit, during a night out with his guests and a man described as a Saudi dignitary.

In another case that raised more than a few eyebrows, the young millionaire claimed he did not understand the details of a multi-million euro development loan provided to him by AIB.

Jimmy Jnr, who is the director of 23 companies, told the Commercial Court that he had never read a book or a newspaper and an educational psychologist's report stated he had the reading ability of a seven year old.

At the time, he was being sued by AIB for a €6.28m development loan.

PJ, a handsome man with a quiet charm, spent money on designer clothes, his passion for helicopter flying and the finer things in life for himself and his model wife, Andrea Roche. He was also fond of the party lifestyle but was happy to take a back seat as Jimmy Jnr led their carnival party heyday.

As a member of their inner-circle, who was regularly treated to the trappings of their earnings in the boom years, explained: "The lifestyle was mind-blowing. You couldn't fully appreciate it unless you lived it, too. The fleet of cars was like something out of a Las Vegas showroom. The Mercs, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, a Hummer, not to mention the private jet and the choppers.

"We had a millionaire's playground at our disposal and, for the boys, money was all that mattered. It was the key to the good times."

The young Dublin man, who became close friends with PJ and Jimmy Jnr, as their father's success took off, described nights out with the boys: "We used to fly in the chopper to parties in England and the Rolls was always on call. The lads kept themselves to themselves, among our own little crew, but when they splashed out on us, it was excessive -- overly generous."

On nights out, Jimmy Jnr would order drinks for the whole room with one wave of his hand and pick up the tab. And if friends needed a dig-out, he was always there.

"Money mattered, it was the key to power and the fast-life and they couldn't see an end to the gravy train.

"In some ways, they lived the simple life, very parochial in terms of holidaying every year in the same spot in Marbella and parting every weekend in the same nightclub, Lillies Bordello. But they did it in style.

"Then the wardrobe. PJ was quite shy and retiring, but Jimmy Jnr was the flash one. He wanted to stand out from the crowd. He bought himself a knock-out Rolex watch at one stage -- with diamonds surrounding a mother-of-pearl face and his clothes and shoes were always the best designer threads going."

Asked about the impact their riches had on their friends, the source replied: "There was no doubt about it -- their money spoke to a lot of people. Money talks and when they spent big in a small pool of mates, they were the kings of the castle."

Did it change them?

"The father is a very down-to-earth man. A gentleman, a hard worker and a grafter. For him it was never about the money; I think it was more about the security for his family and the challenge of making the area better. So it never changed him.

"He got up at 7am every morning and would work until all hours at night. He was a good father in that he made his sons work hard, too. You'd never see Jim Snr in a flash lifestyle. He had his simple pleasures, like slipping in to the back of an auction to buy old antique furniture and renovate it into something beautiful. Both his houses, Tassaggart and Palmerstown House, were dripping with the best of antiques.

"But for his sons, the lifestyle took over, and I suppose it changed them a bit. How could it not?"

Both PJ and Jimmy are also said to have spared no expense on their respective wives and girlfriends, whose bountiful lifestyles were often covered in the social pages.

Following the collapse of his marriage, Jimmy Jnr enjoyed relationships with top models Katy French and, afterwards, Hazel O'Sullivan. Both women lived in properties on the estate and were treated to the luxuries of a life spent socialising with the Mansfield dynasty. Meanwhile, former Miss Ireland Andrea Roche was married to PJ for four years.

As a friend explained: "When she was with PJ, she was showered with the best of everything. She had a dream wedding, drove a top-of-the-range Range Rover, was clad in designer clothes and her friend Catriona Hanly, who has since turned her hand to fashion and jewellery, was brought in to lavishly decorate their Cold Water Lakes home overlooking one of the City West golf courses.

But the marriage didn't stand the test of time. In mid-2009, long before the cracks started appearing in the Mansfield empire, it was over and she and PJ separated. After living on her own for some time, the beauty queen has now found love with Dublin man Rob White.

In early 2011, hit by a combination of the property crash, the crippling recession and the cutbacks in leisure spending, the Mansfield empire, which depended on property sales, corporate entertainment and the buoyant Irish economy, could no longer keep servicing a mountain of debt and Mansfield's banks and creditors began to circle the business.

Jim Mansfield told the Irish Times recently that he had "a little bit of income" but wasn't prepared to elaborate on where it came from. But of his three main businesses -- HSS, which owns much of the City West complex is in liquidation and Fallowvale which owns Weston Aerodrome and Bridford which owns Palmerstown House and estate -- are in receivership. Bank of Scotland is owed €140m, while the companies have not been able to service debts of €60m with the former Irish Nationwide Building Society.

"When their fortunes began to turn, I know of some friends of the lads who weren't there for them. It's a pity because, whatever you say about their spending habits, they were always excessively generous to their friends. I know of people they gave money to when they were in trouble and they were big-hearted in ways no one will ever know about."

Sources say Jimmy Jnr has moved from Palmerstown House in Co Kildare back to his father's home, Tassaggart House, Co Dublin. "Jimmy Jnr loved Palmerstown and he always thought that would be his at the end of the day. The house was spectacular; it was so big it even had living quarters for staff and elevators to take you to different floors. It had a bar in the living area, giant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, a jacuzzi on the roof where he used to have his own private parties, and now he's living back under the same roof as his dad."

The helicopters and fleet of luxury cars that once sat so proudly and polished outside the doors of City West hotel have all vanished.

Jim Mansfield Snr, who used to come to the hotel every day, has been ill and hasn't been seen around recently.

But, as a source explained, "He is still very much in control, as much as he can be trying to salvage anything he's got left of the business with the strength, the perseverance and the determination he showed in the early days when building up the empire."

Sunday Independent

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