Sunday 18 March 2018

Business week in 60 seconds with Sarah Stack

Cowen gets motoring as he's appointed to Topaz board

DRIVING: Brian Cowen is now working for Topaz
DRIVING: Brian Cowen is now working for Topaz
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been appointed to the board of Topaz. The surprise move is the first major appointment for the ex-politician since he resigned as leader of Fianna Fail in January 2011 ahead of the general elections.

Cowen had not worked full-time since his abrupt departure from politics, but last year he set up Cowen Consulting after taking part in an executive programme at Stanford University, California.

Billionaire Denis O'Brien will also sit at the helm of the energy group, which is the largest service station operator and convenience retailer in the country. The company employs 1,700 people at 330 sites nationwide.


IT'S been a very long and busy week over at the Central Bank with its annual reports and that little matter of a Circuit Court judge launching a scathing attack on those who used to be in charge at the regulator's office. Within weeks of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick walking free from court, his former boardroom colleagues Pat Whelan and William McAteer were spared jail.

It would be unjust to jail the men when a State agency had led the two into error and illegality, Judge Martin Nolan ruled. The pair – convicted of giving illegal loans to the Maple 10 in July 2008 – will instead do community service pending a probation report.

The judge decided the then Financial Regulator Patrick Neary, and his number two Con Horan, should have done more to stop the transaction instead of giving the green light. It seemed the regulator did not realise there was a breach of section 60, or chose to disregard it, according to the judge, who wasn't sure which was the case.


THE next day we heard Con Horan is due to return to work at the Central Bank at the end of the year.

Since 2011 he has been on secondment to the European Banking Authority in London, a placement which is due to finish at the end of 2014.

The role played by the Office of the Financial Regulator in Anglo's illegal loan scheme was described as a "sorry story" by Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, who stressed such failures would not happen today. The Government was also quick to show it was on top of it all saying the inquiry into the banking collapse – which cost taxpayers €64bn – will start work soon.


IRELAND Inc took a bit of a blow this week when Intel revealed it plans to invest €4bn in a new state-of-the-art chip plant in Israel. There are fears the move could signal the company has opted for its Israeli operations over its 4,500-strong Irish base for the production of its next-generation processor.

Intel recently revealed that it has spend $5bn (€3.6bn) in the past three years upgrading its Irish plant; however, the company has not yet revealed what the updated plant will manufacture.

It employs 4,500 people in Ireland along with a further 5,000 construction workers in Leixlip, Co Kildare, at present.


THERE was some surprise at the Aer Lingus annual general meeting when Ryanair backed the carrier's chief executive Christoph Mueller's €1.5m pay packet.

It had been expected that Ryanair, which owns almost 30 per cent of its smaller rival, would vote against the resolution to approve the Aer Lingus remuneration report, which includes Mr Mueller's pay. Ryanair deputy chief financial officer and deputy chief executive Howard Millar was attending the AGM to represent the company's holding in Aer Lingus.

The Government, which controls 25.1 per cent of Aer Lingus, voted against the resolution to approve the pay report due to the increased pension contribution – totalling €175,000 – that was paid to Mr Mueller last year.

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