Tuesday 21 October 2014

Reaping €30m payday from €190,000 investment

Published 28/11/2012 | 05:00

PUBLICAN and hotelier Hugh O'Regan was part of a generation that transformed Dublin's social life.

Beginning in the then raffishly fashionable Temple Bar area in 1988, he quickly became one of Dublin's biggest and most high-profile publicans in the 1990s.

Through that decade he helped to revolutionise the pub trade.

Stylish bars replaced old-style boozers to cater for an increasingly affluent clientele.

Mr O'Regan had initially studied engineering as a student at Trinity, but he left before completing his degree.

He later returned to university and completed a degree in English and Economics as an evening student.

After time working in banking and property, he found his feet in the pub trade in 1988 when he bought Flannery's pub in Temple Bar along with his brother Declan.

At the time Temple Bar was a bohemian enclave that had only just escaped the wrecking ball.

As the area boomed, O'Regan's €190,000 purchase price rapidly looked like a bargain.

It was the launch pad for what became a major business.

Traditional publicans had been happy to have their name over the door and a good flow of regulars.

Operators like O'Regan were keen to modernise.

He was helped by a population surge in the 19 to 35 age bracket and the start of the boom.

At its height, O'Regan's pub empire included many of the capital's most fashionable haunts such as Pravda, the Bailey, Ron Black's, Searson's and Lincoln's Inn.

A successful exit from the pubs in 2003 saw the initial €190,000 investment in Flannery's transformed into a €30m payday. By then the pub trade was in decline and O'Regan moved on to the development of the four-star Morrison Hotel, which was transformed into a smart, ultra modern and upmarket venue

Its opening was a wake-up call to the city's then fairly jaded hotel sector. The hotel was bought earlier this year by Russia's wealthiest woman for €20m in one of the first hotel sales since since the property crash. .

O'Regan's empire's was fuelled by debt's of around €80m owed to Anglo Irish Bank, and €180m owed to Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Much of the debt was linked to plans for a €10m redevelopment of the Hibernian United Services Club on St Stephen's Green, and the Kilternan Golf and Country Club close to Dublin city.

It meant that when the wheels finally came off the Celtic Tiger, O'Regan's ventures and the businessman himself were left with unsustainable debts.

Irish Independent

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