Ardmore film studios sold to backer of Limerick rival
Wicklow's Ardmore Studios, where movie and TV hits such as 'Braveheart' and 'Penny Dreadful' have been filmed, has been sold by former U2 impresario Paul McGuinness and Ossie Kilkenny to Olcott Entertainment.
Olcott is a newly-established vehicle led by Ion Equity co-founder Joe Devine.
Enterprise Ireland has also sold its stake in the business, giving Olcott full control of Ardmore. While no purchase price was disclosed, it was speculated in 2016 that the Ardmore Studios operation could be worth about €15m.
Mr Devine is also chairman of Troy Studios in Limerick. That studio is based in a former Dell factory. Mr Kilkenny - a former accountant for U2 - is also a director of Troy Studios.
Mr Devine said that Siún Ní Rathallaigh will continue as chief executive of both Ardmore and Troy studios.
"Our interest in the sector is against a backdrop of significant global demand for content and thus for production facilities," said Mr Devine, who added that there are "ambitious plans" for growing the business.
"The drive for more content is fuelled by 'big screen' film, increasingly 'on demand TV' and the gaming industry," he said. "When coupled with Ireland having one of the more attractive incentive schemes in the world, it makes Ardmore an attractive asset."
Ms Ní Raghallaigh, who is also the chairperson of TG4, also welcomed the acquisition, describing it as a "very positive development".
"Quality film studios ensure that the industry in Ireland will scale up and provide significant employment," she said.
"Olcott has ambitious plans to invest in and to develop the facilities in Ardmore which will ensure that it will continue to compete at the heart of the international film and TV production market," added Ms Ní Raghallaigh.
Ardmore is based on 18 acres in Bray, and offers a full suite of production services. It was owned by Mr McGuinness, Mr Kilkenny and Enterprise Ireland for more than 30 years and was put up for sale in 2016.
In 2016, Ardmore Studios made a €675,000 profit. That compared to a €1.3m profit in the prior year. The business had nearly collapsed during the recession due to a huge debt pile.
Ardmore was recently involved in the production of a new spy thriller' starring US actress Blake Lively, called 'The Rhythm Section'.
The influential 'Hollywood Reporter' said last year that the success of the Star Wars filming in Ireland has spurred a new wave of interest in making movies in this country.
Productions recently completed at Ardmore include 'The Professor and the Madman', a movie starring Sean Penn and Mel Gibson.
It tells the story about the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary.
The release of that movie has been delayed because of a legal battle unrelated to Ardmore in the United States.
RTE's 'Dancing with the Stars' is also filmed at the Bray studio, while the hit Sky show 'Moone Boy', which was written by and stars Chris O'Dowd, has also been filmed at Ardmore. So too has the US series 'Into the Badlands'.
Since 2013, Ardmore has operated at an average annual capacity of 85-90pc.
In recent years, more than €2m has been invested in the studios to significantly enhance and upgrade its on-site facilities.