Saturday 20 January 2018

Bankrupt tycoon's designer pad on sale

The former Alphyra chief has a history of bouncing back

The bathroom in the property
The bathroom in the property
The kitchen in the property

Roisin Burke

As Payzone founder John Nagle's sprawling pad atop Killiney Hill goes on the market, the former tech multimillionaire continues to wend his way through the bankruptcy process across the water.

Nagle and his wife bought Paddock Wood, where nearby neighbours include Bono and Van Morrison, for close to €5m in 2004. It's selling valued at around €2m now.

The couple knocked the original 1960s house and built an ultramodern Californian style statement home, with an infinity swimming pool, tennis court, a dedicated wine storage room, a gym and an ebony staircase. Floor-to-ceiling windows in every room gaze out over Killiney bay.

Nagle was a very early Irish tech boom pioneer. In 1989, he started a company providing a maintenance service for business telecoms systems and computers called ITG. It became the first Irish company to float on London's AIM in 1997, also listing in Dublin and building a sizeable credit card transactions operation.

Rebranded Alphyra, dotcom crash pressure from other investors saw it taken private in 2001. Nagle spearheaded a ballsy €88m management buyout of the company two years later.

In 2002, Alphyra splurged €85m on two former An Post companies with British and Spanish operations, cementing its position as one of Europe's largest payment network operators. It was generating total transactions of over €3.5bn a year.

At the height of the boom Nagle led Alphyra's reverse takeover of British ATM firm Cardpoint. That merger formed Payzone, a cash point and mobile phone top-up and transactions force.

Payzone won lucrative contracts like the M50 toll pay system and listed on the London Stock Exchange, providing pay services for 250,000 retailers Europe-wide in 21 countries. It was valued at around €150m.

Not long after listing, however, its performance on the AIM floundered with shares plummeting by 40 per cent.

A share suspension, restructure and delisting in 2008 saw Nagle, who held an 11 per cent stake, and other shareholders' investments wiped out.

A High Court outing and a bloody courtroom battle saw Payzone dubbed 'Warzone' in the press and Nagle and finance director John Williamson were ousted.

Nagle went to set up an innovative electronic loyalty coupon company Zapa, providing coffee outlets and other retailers with a nifty digital alternative to tiresome tokens and loyalty card stamping for their customers.

It ran into difficulties, owing €6.5m, and a liquidator was appointed. Arantech founder Brendan McDonagh, backed by Delta Partners and other investors bought it, injecting fresh investment of over €1m.

Cork native Nagle now runs a consultancy that advises electronic payment firms in launching products and services. Uncontactable last week, Nagle has previously told this paper it was a fledgling endeavour based in Britain, although the British contact number listed appears to be disconnected.

In March Nagle was declared bankrupt, having filed from an address in South London, a move that should render him debt free in March 2014.

Then eyes will be on what he does next. Despite his travails of recent years, he has been instrumental in the development of two fairly groundbreaking tech firms and possesses a solid knowledge of the currently red-hot electronic payments area.

There is a slew of innovation happening in this area: McDonalds, Marks & Spencer and others bringing in contactless payments, banks allowing customers to 'ping' payments through their smartphones, shops making their loyalty coupons electronic, and game-changing products from pay transaction firms like Realex and Stripe, and virtual pay methods like Google wallet.

There'll be more of this, and it's fertile ground for someone who knows the sector well.

Sunday Independent

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