Good times roll for Wes despite €800k tax bill for Quirkey's
With a wedding to Rosanna Davison on the horizon, the taxman won't spoil the party, writes Donal Lynch
Published 16/06/2013 | 05:00
Until last Wednesday, it seemed that the 'good times' would flow continuously in 2013 for the owners of Dr Quirkey's: the slot machine empire continued to boom from its HQ in the O'Connell Street wasteland – profits increased by nearly half from 2011-2012. The family was again named in Ireland's rich list, with a fortune recently estimated at some €34m. And as business flourished their profile grew – son and heir, Wesley, got engaged to Rosanna Davison, a former Miss World and the daughter of Chris De Burgh, promising a tantalising union of commerce and dodgy songwriting. While others struggled in the recession it seemed the Quirkes could do nothing wrong.
And so the midweek news that the company which owns Dr Quirkey's Good Time Emporium, controlled by Wesley's parents, ran up a VAT bill of just over €800,000 was inevitably greeted by schadenfreude in some quarters. Predictably, however, there was no public comment from a family, which, aside from the controlled ripostes of social media, has always been surprisingly shy of media attention.
In recent years, Wes has spurned red carpets, photo calls and interview requests, preferring to get attention behind the wheel of his flash car and at the spectacular parties he throws.
Brother Andy has been out of the public eye too. The skits he created and performed (for Republic of Telly among others) a few years ago drew criticism – the National Parents Council accused him of "trivialising and glamorising" binge drinking – and viewers got to see inside the family mansion, which was used for a satirical version of MTV Cribs. But since then his promising career in TV comedy seems to have stalled – his YouTube channel has not been updated in a year.
Not that it seems to have worried him. As the taxman closed in on his parents' business last week he tweeted that he was on his way to Monaco alongside a picture of himself sticking his tongue out.
In some ways the two Quirke boys might be chips off the old block. Patriarch Richard, a former garda, has long been shy of media attention. In 2011, RTE's Prime Time programme reported that Richard Quirke, supported by his friend, independent TD Michael Lowry, was planning to turn Two-Mile Borris in Co Tipperary into 'The New Sin City' with the construction of a replica White House, a 500-bedroom hotel and a gaming casino that would reportedly attract 20,000 visitors per week.
At the time, journalists clamoured to enquire how Quirke planned to attract such large numbers of visitors to such a remote part of the country, but were met with stony silence. "Richard Quirke, why should he be available?" demanded Lowry of the media. "I mean, what divine right have you to have Richard Quirke stand in front of you or answer your questions? Richard Quirke is a businessman. He makes investments decisions on his own behalf and if Richard Quirke is not available to you, that's his business."
Since then Richard Quirke's Pool and Juke Box Ltd has acquired millions of euro in land and other assets around the site. However, in September 2011, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that the casino was "out" based on a cabinet decision, which ruled out large-scale gambling venues.
Plans have since been revised, however. Lowry's office did not immediately return calls on the current progression of the project.
In some ways the very nature of the Quirke empire made it bound to provoke controversy. Dr Quirkey's Good Time Emporium on Dublin's O'Connell Street is seen by some as a symptom of the malaise with the capital's main thoroughfare, which has never become the modern shopping boulevard local politicians wanted it to be.
In 2009, the business clashed with the local council after the erection of a huge and unsightly sign. During the last decade O'Connell Street became designated an area of special planning control, allowing for the imposition of greater controls over shopfront design and advertisement structures. The slot machine mecca defiantly remains there, however, a stubborn bastion of city centre garishness.
In the future the emporium will likely be in the news again as Wesley marries Rosanna and, in all likelihood, takes a greater role in the running of the family business.
For seven years now he and the former Miss World have been the golden couple of Ireland's social scene. They met in 2006 at Club 92 in Leopardstown and became an item after he contacted her on the social networking site Bebo. By then Rosanna was already a top model, having won the Miss World competition in China.
In the aftermath of their getting together he capitalised on their fame – the press dubbed them 'Wesanna'. He briefly became a model with Assets but soon dropped that and focused on his family's business. By 2009 the relationship was foundering and although they didn't officially split it was decided they would give each other some space.
"I just needed some time to figure out what I wanted. I'm stronger for it," Rosanna said in 2010. That same year Quirke asked her to move in with him at his luxury home in Foxrock.
Davison sparked fresh rumours about their relationship when she took a flight to Morocco with Treasury Holdings czar Johnny Ronan, who had had a row with his then-girlfriend Glenda Gilson. In the frenzy of speculation that followed, Davison claimed that the whole thing was decided spontaneously, nothing had happened with Ronan and she insouciantly added that she found the jaunt "liberating".
She was similarly blithe about her raunchy photo shoot in German Playboy in which she became the first Irish woman to pose topless for the iconic magazine. Since then Davison has visited the Playboy Mansion in California and chatted to Hugh Hefner about possibly doing a follow-up shoot for the US edition.
Wes's proposal to her was befitting of a former Miss World. On January 6 last, during a holiday in Mauritius, he went down on one knee on the beach and presented Davison with a customised ring reported to be worth €40,000. With little sense of irony, Davison has said she'd like a wedding that is simple and unfussy, musing that the couple may "jet off with 40 or 50 close friends for an intimate ceremony on the beach".
Traditionally it's the father of the bride who funds the wedding but Rosanna's future father-in-law also has pockets deep enough to fund such gauzy visions.
Last Wednesday Wes changed his Facebook profile picture to a picture of two Lamborghinis – one of which he owns – basking in the sunshine. The message seemed to be defiant and clear: the taxman may be at the door, but nobody is spoiling the Quirke family party.