Tuesday 17 October 2017

The reasons behind O'Reilly's decline were complex but also very simple

Mr O’Reilly’s sense of history and world affairs was deep and profound.
Mr O’Reilly’s sense of history and world affairs was deep and profound.

'Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy,'' wrote F Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald-style Gatsbyesque allusions to the collapse in the fortunes of Sir Anthony O'Reilly have been many in recent weeks – and will gather pace as some of the jewels in his once mighty business empire come up for sale.

Like all such stories of decline and fall, the reasons behind it all are both complex and simple. But after the analysts and experts have had their say, the core problem is that he was simply over-borrowed when the whirlwind of a vicious unforeseen recession swept from country to country. It has happened before – it will happen again.

My first meeting with Tony O'Reilly was when, shortly after his marriage to Chryss Goulandris, the couple made an impromptu visit to the old Independent offices in Middle Abbey Street. I was Night Editor of the paper at the time, working in what is now a lost world of typewriters, with a clanking printing press thundering away beneath the building.

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