Rich List: Meet the country's wealthiest people in the agri-food sector

Larry Goodman, who made the Rich List for 2019 with an estimated wealth of €850m.
Larry Goodman, who made the Rich List for 2019 with an estimated wealth of €850m.
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

This year's Sunday Independent Rich List threw up a slew of people from the agri-food sector. We detail the movers and shakers who own farms and agri-food businesses across Ireland and explore their fortunes over the past 12 months.

John Magnier

Irish business magnate John Magnier. Photo: Sportsfile
Irish business magnate John Magnier. Photo: Sportsfile

€2.42bn + €120m


John Magnier is synonymous with winning. The 70-year-old is at the heart of the world-famous Coolmore Stud and also holds stakes in UK nursing home group Barchester Healthcare and Britain's biggest pub group, Mitchells & Butlers.

His initial earnings came from his horse-breeding empire, which he has expanded with world-class farms in Ireland, the United States and Australia. However, a series of shrewd business dealings, which included the trading of government and corporate bonds, as well as currency trading, helped catapult his wealth and make him one of Ireland's few billionaires. He is married to Susan, the daughter of Irish racehorse trainer Vincent O'Brien, and they have five children.

Last year, he was widely praised for making a killing in the art collection business. Magnier was understood to have been the owner of Italian painter Modigliani's Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) piece, which was sold at Sotheby's for $157m (€138m) in May. The horse-breeding tycoon, known as 'The Boss', was understood to have bought the painting 15 years previous at an auction in New York for a mere $26.9m.

Magnier is also set to land a sizeable windfall this year with the sale of Barchester. The healthcare company, which operates more than 200 care homes and seven registered hospitals in the UK, was put up for sale in 2018 with a price-tag of around €2.8bn. He is one of the major owners in the business alongside JP McManus and Dermot Desmond. The company is being marketed by US banking giant JP Morgan with a number of US-based groups believed to be interested and Magnier owns around 20pc of it.

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Magnier's stake in the billion-pound Mitchells & Butlers pub chain also paid dividends after a strong 2018. He and McManus share a 23pc stake in the company. During the 52 weeks to the end of September, the pub business reported a surge in operating profits of £47m (€53m) to £255m (€286m).

He is the son of a Co Cork landowner, and was educated at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick. Following the death of his father when he was 15, he had to leave school to take charge of the family's estate near Fermoy. Later in life, the equine mogul moved to Fethard in Co Tipperary, where he went on to transform Coolmore Stud into what it is today, a 7,000-acre, multi-million euro business. Magnier himself netted millions in the process of the transformation and became Ireland's leading thoroughbred stud owner.

In late 2016, Magnier and McManus netted a reported €350m profit from the sale of an office and retail building on the exclusive Place Vendome in Paris. In 2017, the bloodstock billionaire and his family moved to buy Sutton Scotney Estate in Hampshire for over €52m.

Magnier spends much of his time at a seafront home on a Caribbean island. His property portfolio stretches from a €30m beach-front pad in Marbella to an interest in the exclusive Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados.

The Lyons family

€2bn Inheritance

Distillery: Mark Lyons and his wife Holly with the late Dr Pearse Lyons and his wife Deirdre in 2017
Distillery: Mark Lyons and his wife Holly with the late Dr Pearse Lyons and his wife Deirdre in 2017

Billionaire Pearse Lyons died last March due to an acute lung condition that developed during his recovery from heart surgery. He was 73. His son Mark is now heading up his vast business interests.

The Alltech founder was born in Dundalk and after attaining a doctorate, he started his career in the brewing industry, where he developed a high-level specialisation in the properties of yeast. He then used his expertise to start up animal nutrition business Alltech in 1980. He built it up to become one of the most successful Irish-US businesses ever set up by an Irishman, with more than 5,000 staff globally, making him a billionaire in the process.

At the time of his death, the company said his wife, who is the company's director of corporate image and design, would continue "to further Dr Lyons' vision for Alltech's global presence and their shared commitment to philanthropy and community involvement".

However, the day-to-day running of the company will fall to Mark who will take on his father's stated goal of increasing revenues from more than $2bn to $10bn.

Ned Guinness

€928m + €40m


The family stake of Kildare native Ned Guinness (49) in drinks giant Diageo is up about 7pc over the past year to €315m.

But he has other assets, including BGL Golf in Britain, BGL Estates and Adventure Leisure, which between them own more than 20 golf courses, tenanted farms and land in the wealthy Surrey commuter belt outside London, as well as gated residential developments, a country club, a listed manor house and 850 moorings in Chichester Harbour.

The holding company for these interests had a turnover of £28.7m in 2017, made a pre-tax profit of £1.6m and had £38.5m of net assets, though it seems the properties may be worth a lot more than that.

Guinness, also known as Lord Iveagh, lives on the 22,500-acre Elveden estate in Suffolk, on which he grows onions and potatoes for Sainsbury's, McDonalds and Walkers Crisps. Its Elveden Hall has featured in a James Bond film and Netflix's The Crown. He uses either a modern 4x4 or a battered little Nissan Micra to get around his land, but also keeps a green 1928 vintage Rolls-Royce.

Here, his brother Rory runs a farm in Co Meath, while there is also a philanthropic interest in The Iveagh Trust, which is building affordable homes in Dublin and has almost 1,500 apartments and hostel places in the capital.

Ned also backed Irish cloud communications firm Blueface, which merged with US rival Star2Star last year in a $500m deal. It's likely he made a tidy profit and took some cash off the table after the deal, but is believed to have retained a stake in the merged entity.

In Canada, the Guinnesses also own British Pacific Properties, which develops apartments and multi-million dollar mansions that are some of Canada's most expensive properties in exclusive West Vancouver on about 1,000 acres that are available to develop on its 2,000-acre holdings. The land has been in the family since 1931, and plots were steadily sold off to developers over the years.

Michael O'Leary

€925m ▼ €200m


Michael O'Leary with one of his herd at Gigginstown. Photo: Tony Gavin
Michael O'Leary with one of his herd at Gigginstown. Photo: Tony Gavin

Hundreds of cancelled flights because of pilot and cabin crew strikes meant it was the most challenging year yet for Mullingar native Michael O'Leary's (57) tenure as the boss of Ryanair.

Consequently, the share price took a battering, and is down about 30pc. Questions were asked over the former accountant's future as its CEO, but though his contract is up for renewal this year, he admitted he wasn't sure if he'd stick with the job any later than 2024, saying he was happy to continue in the post while it remained interesting and challenging.

During the year, the outspoken horse breeder, racing enthusiast, cattle breeder and property investor sold 2m shares and banked about €33m before tax. The sale leaves him with a stake of about 3.8pc, now worth about €476m. At one stage, he owned about 25pc of the airline, but has sold tranches of it gradually and banked the proceeds. The share price could take a big hit if there's a no-deal Brexit in March and no aviation agreement in place between the EU and Britain.

One of his horses, Tiger Roll, won Britain's Grand National last year, prompting the outspoken Irishman to pledge a free drink - but only one - to every passenger on the plane (Ryanair, naturally) home. He later sold off 40 horses last September from the more than 160 that he reportedly owns and keeps at Gigginstown Stud, where he also has two farms, and another stud that he owns in Newmarket.

Last year, he added a pile on Elgin Road in Ballsbridge to what is now a €20m portfolio of four houses there. He was linked with a €10m Baroque palace purchase in Majorca during the summer while the strikes were in full swing, and owns at least four office blocks in Glasgow and London, as well as one near Manchester in the UK. At one stage, he was also linked to properties including a shopping centre in north Dublin.

Larry Goodman

€850m + €30m


The business empire of Larry Goodman (81) includes the Ardee, Co Louth-headquartered ABP Food Group, Europe's largest beef processor as well as commercial properties here - among them the former Bank of Ireland HQ on Baggot Street - and in the UK as well as a number of other investments.

His sons Laurence (37) and Mark (35) also have property interests and a consultancy firm respectively. Mark is also the MD of ABP's international division. Laurence's company Urban Life began by buying partially finished estates and now builds developments, that can number up to 170 houses, in north Dublin and Co Louth.

It has also emerged that Goodman and his son Laurence earn an €8m rent roll for letting office space to three government departments at the Baggot Street property, now known as Miesian Plaza. It is believed this makes them the State's biggest landlord. They also own an office block on Nassau Street in the capital, which they hope to redevelop.

Beef exports increased in 2018, with a €50m three-year deal struck by ABP with a restaurant chain in China and exports to the US also up. ABP's share of the market has also increased since it bought a 50pc stake in Slaney Meats in 2017. Customers include supermarket private labels and restaurant and takeaway chains, while - along with other Irish meat firms - pet foods have also been a growth sector in recent years. Brexit remains a significant threat to the business, however, although it has hedged against this in the North with a 50pc stake in Linden Foods and a factory investment in Scotland. There are also interests in renewable energy and vegetable oil recycling in Britain.

Goodman has a large stake in IPL Plastics, whose share price was down by 40pc at the time of writing. There are also stakes in the Blackrock and Hermitage Clinics. Goodman also receives a huge chunk of EU farm subsidies every year. There is also a €30m Dassault Falcon jet and a €7m Dauphin helicopter.

The Cleary Family

€780m ▼ €20m


Meath farmer Eamon Cleary was one of the wealthiest people in New Zealand when he died at the age of 53 in 2012. He is survived by his wife Catriona and eight children.

He made the move to New Zealand in the 1990s, just as dairy farming began to boom there, becoming the largest dairy farmer in its Southland region. He then moved into property development, initially in the nearby tourist hub of Queenstown, before expanding into North America, Eastern Europe and Australia. He also bought a stud farm in Kentucky, and is said to have owned telecoms and agricultural businesses in Chile and Argentina.

Estimates differ as to whether he was worth about €1bn - which the New Zealand Business Review suggested - or €2bn. He gave money to Otago University and other money is also believed to have been given to good causes.

Bert Allen & Family

€605m + €10m

Beef, Industry

Bert Allen (80) and his family owe their wealth to the meat industry and a large and valuable property portfolio. Some of the investments are made with brother Maurice (76). However they took a loss of an estimated €8m last year after renewable energy firm Gaelectric was liquidated. Bert also had a very small stake in tidal energy firm OpenHydro, which also went bust last year, so he might be forgiven for not backing any renewable energy businesses again any time soon.

But those minor losses were far outweighed by the various paydays the family has had from well-timed and shrewd investment plays. They earned about €250m when their 50pc stake in Slaney Foods was sold to fellow Rich Lister Larry Goodman's ABP Foods.

Their timing could not have been better selling the Bewleys Hotel Group in 2008, just before the crash. The €580m sale netted them about €200m. Then their vast property portfolio, which is owned through a complex web of UK and offshore companies, generates a rent roll of €40m and is worth about €450m, although the debt is around half of that. It includes nursing homes, land, apartments, office blocks and a car park. He is also linked with a venture to expand Cork's port.

Children Harry, Bertram and April, meanwhile, run a small bloodstock business split between stud farms in Dusseldorf in Germany and a larger one in Wexford. Bertram is a successful showjumper. Bert collects Eileen Gray furniture, and restored her family home near Enniscorthy.

The Haughey Family

€498m + €30m


Mary Haughey and her daughter and sons own health and veterinary products firm Norbrook Laboratories, which was founded in 1969 by her Louth-born late husband Edward, who held the title of Lord Ballyedmond, and who died in a helicopter crash in 2014. £104m (€117m) of assets including properties and farmland were transferred to Mary and her family in 2015. It was reported that her husband left an estate worth £472m (€530m) in total.

The privately-owned firm, which is now run by former Sisk chief Liam Nagle and employs over 2,000 staff around the world, filed its latest accounts showing sales of £272m (€306m) in 2017. It booked a profit of £39.4m, and there was £128m in shareholders' funds.

Other assets include a property in London's Belgrave Square worth tens of millions alone, as well as others homes, castles and estates in Dublin, Norfolk, Northern Ireland, Carlisle, Co Louth and Uganda.

The Queally Family

€300m + €5m


With an annual turnover of over €2bn, Dawn Meats - which was set up by Peter (80) and John (82) Queally with partner Dan Browne in 1980 - has grown to become one of Europe's biggest privately-owned companies.

The unlimited firm, which does not file accounts, has over 7,000 employees in 12 countries, and exports to over 50 markets. Brother Michael also controls Waterford-based subsidiary the Arrow Group with his two siblings. It alone had sales of €545m in 2017 and shareholders' funds of €166m.

Other assets in the family include a sewage treatment firm, the Glenpatrick Spring Water company, five-a-side football pitches and commercial property. There is also a new pet food spinoff.

Dan Tierney and Family

€260m + €12m


Limerick native Dan Tierney (70) lives in Dublin with wife Maura, who is part of the NTR and CRH Roche dynasty.

He has made a fortune through manufacturing, marketing and distributing animal health products and veterinary medicines, having started south Dublin firm Bimeda in the mid-1960s.

Today, it is a global business with operations in seven countries and employs over 800 people. The unlimited company does not file accounts, though two Irish subsidiaries had €55m in shareholders' funds in their 2017 accounts and a combined turnover of €69m.

Though he started out in the oil business, his long and varied CV also includes many stints giving his time and expertise to public service, chairing or leading various task forces and research groups, including ones at EU level in Brussels.

The family also own the Green Biofuels Ireland refinery in Wexford, and Dan, who has retired from chairing Bimeda, also owns a marine research station in Bantry aimed at environmental research and cultivating algae.

The Keating Family

€185m + €3m


The children of the late Noel Keating - who started off with a butcher's shop in Dublin's Liberties in 1966 - own meat processing giant Kepak, one of the country's largest private businesses. The firm was established in 1981 in Clonee, Co Meath, and now belongs to Liam (49), Catriona (46), Niamh (43) and Stephen (42).

The producer of much-loved foods such as Big Al's, Rustlers and John Stone employs over 2,800 people in 30 countries and is believed to have a turnover of about €950m. That may have increased after it made four acquisitions in the past year, however. Also, most of its subsidiaries are unlimited companies, so the accounts are not public. The family has also invested in restaurants and properties.

The McCann Family

€156m + €1m


The McCann family sold their decades-old Fyffes fruit importing business - which had its roots in Dundalk and was started by their grandfather Charles - to Japan's Sumitomo for €751m in 2016. The sale had valued the family's stake at about €88m.

Fruit and veg spinout Total Produce - where Carl McCann has a small stake and is vice-chairman - is expanding steadily and has a turnover of €4.25bn. He picked up a €747,000 pay package in 2017.

Total Produce's share price has tanked by 45pc in the past year, however - partly as a result of the acquisition of a 45pc stake in pineapple and banana producer Dole - leaving him nursing a €5m loss. There is a property outfit in which the family have a 55pc stake, consisting of offices, land and warehouses and industrial properties. Though it made an €11m profit in 2017, it had a shareholders' deficit of €84.8m.

Eamonn Quinn and Siblings

€155m ▼ €5m


Former RTE Dragons' Den investor Eamonn Quinn (55) and his four siblings, Donal (40), Stephen (48), Zoe (43) and Gilliane (52) each banked about €33m after tax from their 55pc stake in grocery chain Superquinn, which was sold for €420m.

The Howth-based keen cyclist and swimmer has backed a number of tech firms, including food safety firm Kelsius, grocery delivery firm Buymie and data cruncher yReceipts. He also backed Cork LED lighting firm, Nualight. Donal runs a family investment arm, which backed Eddie O'Connor's Airtricity, and PC maker Dell. It also owns a car park valued at about €4m. Gilliane has a juice business, while Stephen has backed an 'escape room' puzzle venue business in Finglas.

Joseph Brennan

€140m ▼ €8m


Joseph Brennan (76) is the founder of the famous Brennans Bread family business. Still in the same ownership since 1972, the firm is operating in an increasingly competitive market. Brennans family sliced pan became one of the most sought-after necessities during the red weather warning event caused by Storm Ophelia. The family, many of whom are directors of the bread company, also have significant property holdings with assets in central Dublin and high-profile stores in London.

The McHugh Family

€132m No Change


Karl (45) and Kevin (40) McHugh are at the helm of the Atlantic Dawn Group, the biggest player in the European frozen food market. Brexit may bring uncertainty, however. The family sold its €50m supertrawler but kept the fishing asset, which relate to tonnage, kilowatts, and quota rights under EU rules. Ownership of the business was passed down after founder Kevin McHugh died suddenly in 2006, leaving an estate valued at around €72m at the time.

Tony Barry and Family

€120m + €7m


Barry's Tea has become synonymous with Ireland. Often cited as one of the most sought-after products by emigrants, the brand was built from a small grocery in Cork city back in 1901. Tony Barry (58) remains at the helm of the business which has also invested elsewhere as part of its efforts to diversify. Most recently Barry's was one of a number of backers to buy into breast implant manufacturer GC Aesthetics. It is estimated that the Irish tea market is worth around €85m.

Jim and Jack Dobson

€120m ▼ €20m


Jim (64) and Jack (66) Dobson were at the heart of a sizeable deal with Dawn Meats in 2017 that saw the company overtake ABP as the State's largest beef processor.

Their business Dunbia, which has nine sites across the UK and Ireland, turned over £800m (€900m), according to their most recent figures. The firm employs 4,000 people and since it was taken over by Dawn, Jim has been in charge of the UK responsibilities. A tight margin business and Brexit make for an uncertain landscape.

Pat McDonagh

€115m + €5m


The Supermac's founder recently won his battle with McDonald's to try to break into the rest of the EU using his original moniker. The 65-year-old has grown the business to 106 outlets across the country since opening its first iteration in 1978. He also owns the €10m Obama Plaza motorway services station as well as the franchises for Papa John's Pizza and Quiznos sandwich bars.

In December he completed the acquisition of the Castle Oaks House Hotel in Castleconnell in Co Limerick for around €3.5m. In 2016, he also splashed out €3.2m on a 135-acre farm and 19th-Century period house in Oranmore. His Supermac's chain reported a strong year with revenues growing by €19m in 2017 to €157.4m. Profits at the company also surged to €18.7m.

The Keeling Family

Caroline Keeling

€103m + €3m


Keelings is the biggest fruit and veg producer and seller in the country with a customer base, including Marks & Spencer, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores, and with sales of more than €300m per year. The company dates back to the 1920s when its first crop was rhubarb.

Caroline (48) runs the family-owned company, pushing it ever more into export markets - Brexit is likely a concern. The family owns and is expanding - through a €20m investment - the ambitious FoodCentral business park, which has attracted a growing number of food-oriented businesses to open industrial facilities on a 280-acre site in St Margaret's, close to Dublin Airport.

Dan Browne

€99m + €3m


Brexit is a huge cloud hanging over the beef industry but Dan Browne (81) made his fortune in the sector during a golden era that saw Irish meat become one of Ireland's most successful export commodities. He and his family own around 30pc of Dawn Meats, one of the top three beef processors in the country.

In 2017, the company, now run by Browne's son Niall and in which the Queally family also hold a major stake, acquired the Irish assets of UK meat giant Dunbia and established a joint venture with the firm in the UK. Dawn has annual revenues of over €1bn and is the largest burger supplier to fast-food giant McDonald's, in 2016 producing its billionth burger for the chain.

Raymond Hutchinson

€96m + €1m


Ray Hutchinson (69) and his family own Manderley Food Group, based in Tandragee, Co Armagh, which operates the Tayto brand outside the Republic of Ireland.

It is now the largest producer of snack foods in the UK following its acquisition of Tavern Snacks in 2017. Brexit and uncertainty around Sterling are potential concerns but turnover grew from £163m (€182m) to £173m (€194m) in 2017, with profits down from £2.9m (€3.25m) to £1.5m (€1.7m).

Thomas McDonogh

€87m + €3m

Agri, property

Thomas McDonogh & Sons, chaired by Tom McDonogh (82), has been the pre-eminent company in Galway for 150 years, with wide interests ranging from agri supply to property. It has redeveloped the city's quays but its property interests extend much further afield than that, even to a building that houses the European Commission in Brussels.

Little wonder that it has been said of the McDonoghs that "half of Galway was employed by them and the other half looked on in envy".

Michael Herbert

€83m + €3m


Belfast-based Herbert (61) operates 145 KFC outlets with up to 40 new ones added last year, making the group the biggest KFC fast-food franchise in Europe. It also operates a major Häagen-Dazs franchise. Herbert was last year reportedly selling off an east Belfast luxury apartment development site and its plans for close to £4m (€4.5m).

Previously, his Lesley Tower was sold for £8.6m (€9.8m), while his Lesley Exchange buildings were sold for £2.3m (€2.6m) and £3m (€3.4m) each.

Declan Gallagher

€80m No Change


In 2017, Declan Gallagher (49) sold a majority stake in his Donegal-headquartered Promise Gluten Free to a London-based private equity firm, Mayfair Equity Partners. The €67m deal reportedly valued the company at €100m. He started the business in 2011 and ships produce to Australia and the US. The company also has lucrative contracts with Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer.

Vincent and Justin Carton

€60m New Entry


Manor Farm, the largest chicken processor in Ireland, was acquired by Scandi Standard in a deal that values the eighth-generation business at €94m. Brothers Vincent and Justin Carton owned 85pc of the company. The deal was paid for through a mix of cash, stock and a so-called earn-out that will be paid if Manor Farm hits targets following the sale.

Michael Burke, Chanelle McCoy and family

Chanelle Group owner and managing director Michael Burke

€55m + €3m


Vet Michael Burke (61) set up a generic veterinary drugs manufacturing business in Loughrea, Co Galway in 1985. The business, Chanelle Group, has sales of over €100m. Michael's daughter Chanelle McCoy (42), who is married to former champion jockey AP McCoy and was a dragon on Dragons' Den, is involved in generic human medicines.

Ray Coyle

€53m + €3m

Food, theme park

Former potato farmer Coyle (67) confounded the sceptics by developing the Tayto Park theme park in Meath, spending over €45m to turn it into a major tourist attraction boasting Europe's largest wooden rollercoaster.

The former owner of Largo Foods is planning a €48m hotel and spa as well as a new €14m steel rollercoaster.

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