Friday 18 October 2019

Donnelly puts the brakes on bidding for Wrightbus

Off the buses: Businessman Darren Donnelly has pulled out of the running to purchase Wrightbus
Off the buses: Businessman Darren Donnelly has pulled out of the running to purchase Wrightbus

Mark McConville

NORTHERN Ireland businessman Darren Donnelly has pulled out of the running to purchase Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus, straining hopes of a rescue deal for the company that made London's New Routemaster, introduced by then-London mayor Boris Johnson and dubbed Boris Buses.

The news came after reports the company could be forced to call in administrators if a rescue deal isn't secured within days. A spokesperson confirmed that whilst Mr Donnelly had emerged as the potential acquirer of Wrightbus, he has withdrawn from discussions regarding the purchase of the company.

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"Whilst discussions had been ongoing over the past number of weeks, Mr Donnelly has confirmed that he has withdrawn from the process and is no longer pursuing the potential purchase of the Wrightbus company," the spokesperson added.

It is reported that Wrightbus needs a cash injection of around £30m (€34m) to stay in business, with its parent company, Wrights Group, hiring professional services firm Deloitte in July to advise on talks with potential investors.

A spokesperson for Wrights Group said they are in "advanced discussions with a limited number of investors".

"We are optimistic and are working hard towards getting the best possible outcome for the skilled workforce we have in Ballymena, UK mainland and Ireland and our international territories," they added.

"Wrights Group is world class and recognised for the technology it brings to the marketplace. We will ensure that staff are kept informed throughout this process. Due to the commercial nature of these final discussions, we are unable to comment further until the process is completed."

Wrights Group employs around 1,400 people.

Mr Donnelly founded Toomebridge-based articulated trailer manufacturer Retlan Group along with his father John before selling the business to Chinese firm CIMC Vehicles in June 2016 for around £100m.

Darren and John (70) were listed as the 19th richest people in Northern Ireland in 2019 with a combined £94m net worth, according to the 'Sunday Life'. Mr Donnelly is listed as a director of four companies including property development company Valor Homes, Diamond Shelf Company Number 9 Limited, Sperrin Asset Company Limited and The Oaks Management Company.

His longest current appointment spans nearly 15 years at Valor Homes.

Irish Independent

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