AVIATION tycoon Declan Ryan's DFR Nominees will be one of the biggest beneficiaries from the €3m takeover of Aviva Premiership rugby club London Irish last week.
London Irish Consortium, owned by Irish waste magnate Mick Crossan and Tool company boss Phillip Cusack, bought a 52.9 per cent stake in London Irish Holdings last December, triggering a takeover bid. Last Friday, it rolled out an unconditional mandatory 5p per share cash offer for the club.
Ryan's company DFR Nominees owns around 24 per cent of the rugby club, according to its latest annual return.
There are 830 other shareholders in London Irish Holdings. Oval Ventures, another company linked with Ryan owns a further 4 per cent.
Ryan, who was one of the co-founders of Ryanair, has become a highly successful backer of low-cost airlines in the United States, Asia and Latin America.
Charles Gallagher's homebuilder Abbey Group is a small stakeholder with just 50,000 shares.
"We were a few minutes away from winning the Premiership in 2009, a few minutes away from a Heineken Cup final the year before that," Crossan said last year. "It was all here.
"Unfortunately, with a lack of investment, and thoughts on other things – the sale of our ancestral home at Sunbury [the London Irish stadium] – people took their eye off our core business, which is rugby. This is a new dawn for London Irish. If we're playing good rugby, everything will fall into place."
"We are doing this as an investment, yes. But it is about passion, too. It is a bit of both," added Cusack, founder of Cusack Tool Supplies.
The deal to purchase London Irish – known as the Exiles – is the latest takeover of an English rugby club by Irish investors. Last year, Monaco-based Irish businessman Derek Richardson, who sold his 123.ie insurance group to RSA for €80m, led a buyout of Premiership giants London Wasps. Bermuda-based Irish reinsurance tycoon Dominic Silvester is also thought to own around 10 per cent of Saracens.
New television deals and the entry of BT into the sports rights market have seen rugby clubs become a slightly less risky punt.
The Irish have also invested in English premiership football clubs with mixed results.
John Magnier and JP McManus made huge profits when building up a stake in Manchester United before the pair sold out to current owner, American sports magnate Malcolm Glazer.
Publican Charlie Chawke and a number of builders were part of the Drumaville consortium that owned Sunderland Football club, before selling out to Irish billionaire Ellis Short three years ago.