Friday 23 March 2018

Barrett was 'brain' behind big deals

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

IF Johnny Ronan was the flamboyant playboy of the Treasury partnership, Richard Barrett was the erudite and upper-crust brain.

His photograph on the Treasury website looks like a head shot promoting the hit 1980s Hollywood blockbuster 'Wall Street' or the suave nemesis in a James Bond film.

Mr Barrett's public profile never reached the heady heights of Mr Ronan's and he managed to steer largely clear of the gossip pages.

The 58-year-old, who first met Mr Ronan at the fee-paying Castleknock College, is now largely based in the Far East, where Treasury had various interests in the booming Chinese property market.

The loss of Treasury and the subsequent dent in his reputation will presumably not help his public persona in China, where image is everything. The economics and law graduate hit the headlines in the closing chapters of the Treasury survival battle after a firm owned by Mr Barrett was sold two Chinese subsidiaries by Treasury.

The transfer of ownership of the companies in the middle of a liquidation hearing stunned lawyers for KBC Bank, who wanted Treasury Holdings to be shut down and its assets sold off to repay debts.

The deal laid bare Mr Barrett's shrewd business instincts, but ultimately sparked Nama's decision to support KBC in trying to have the firm put into liquidation.

Mr Barrett, who is also a barrister, does not disguise that he is an intellectual heavyweight.

At the official opening of Dublin's Convention Centre in September 2010, which was attended by then Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Mr Barrett began his remarks with greetings in Irish, English, Russian and Chinese.

He is a senior research fellow of the Asdian Competitiveness Institute at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, which is part of the National University of Singapore. He has also been a member of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design's Advisory Board.

And he was one of several Irish captains of industry that attended the Global Economic Forum in Dublin Castle last year, where just three -- including himself -- raised their hands when he asked how many spoke Chinese. After the event in Dublin Castle, Mr Barrett challenged the Government, saying the forum had the capacity to be very powerful if they acted on it.

"The Government is more serious about this forum than the last, but they need to honestly face up to the challenges, take the opportunities presented, not engage in self-congratulation for what they have done, but knuckle down to more work to get more done."

Irish Independent

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