Plant-hire business provided launch pad for growth
Published 01/11/2011 | 05:00
AT the height of the boom in 2007, businessman Jim Mansfield's personal wealth was estimated at €420m.
Today his vast empire across south-west Dublin lies in tatters - and most of his assets, which included the Citywest hotel, are controlled by his banks and NAMA.
Like most self-made businessmen, he started his career modestly. His first successes were in haulage and the plant hire business.
But in the 1980s, he made his name after a massive coup where he sold scrapmetal and earth-moving equipment left by the British in the Falklands that made him £26m, a fortune at the time.
The deal helped finance his acquisition of vast tracts of land in Saggart, Co Dublin, which became the massive Citywest complex and included the country's biggest hotel, apartments and a 4,000-capacity convention centre.
More was to come. Palmerstown House was bought for €10m in 1999, and Christy O'Connor Jnr was brought in to design a championship PGA-approved golf course.
Weston Aerodrome cost another €13m the following year, and it was upgraded to an executive hub into the country. His success funded a lavish lifestyle with a mansion in Saggart, a Rolls-Royce and helicopter at his beck and call, often parked outside the Citywest Hotel.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Problems with planners dogged Mr Mansfield's ambitious plans. Hangars were built at Weston without permission being sought, while work on his convention centre was delayed for years after a long-running battle with planners.
Then in February last year eyebrows were raised when he announced a plan to house 750 Saudi students on a live-in English language school outside Dublin called the Citywest Institute of Education.
He planned to convert an unused golf and shopping village into an education campus, promising 293 jobs, including 100 teaching posts. He also claimed to have signed a contract with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Higher Education, which would be worth €250m over six years.
But less than a week later, the Saudis denied that any deal had been signed. Saudi Minister for Scholarship Affairs, Dr Abdullah Al Mosa, said the claim was "far from real".
Just five months later, in July, Bank of Scotland (Ireland) appointed receivers to the Citywest complex, claiming to be owed €140m.