Saturday 18 November 2017

Heffernan's move from Dunnes company could be sign of the times

TESCO'S Irish sales horror show last week masked another unfolding story in supermarket land.

Dunnes Stores, Ireland's most secretive but successful domestic retailer, is slowly changing the guard. In recent weeks, Dunne's matriarch Margaret Heffernan has stepped down as a director of one of the Dunne family's key firms, Silverwood Developments. She's been replaced by her daughter, Anne Heffernan.

Anne Heffernan's appointment sees her join Dunne's biggest shareholder, Frank Dunne, and Margaret Heffernan's niece, Sharon McMahon, on the board. The company is involved in the extended Dunne family's property portfolio. Silverwood Developments is owned by trust companies operating out of the Earlsfort Centre.

In 2012, it emerged that Silverwood Developments was paid €1.8m in rent from Revenue for the lease of a premises on Dublin's George's Street – close to Dunnes headquarters.

While Margaret Heffernan is still on the board of the other key family companies, her departure from Silverwood Developments may be a further sign of the rejigging of responsibilities at Dunnes.

There have been a number of changes at executive level in Dunnes Stores in recent months, with legal highflyer and Matheson partner Robert Heron joining the firm. Heron, of course, was one of Anglo Irish bank's key advisers during the boom and provided a deposition during the recent trial.

Other new hires at Dunnes include former Superquinn finance chief Richard Collins and former INM executive Joe Webb. Dunnes Stores' rivals are experiencing mixed fortunes, meanwhile. Tesco is having a 'mare, with like-for-like sales down 5.5 per cent last year as it got a bloody nose in a price war with German discounters Aldi and Lidl, which have seen their market share rise to a record 15.4 per cent.

Latest Kantar figures showed that the Germans and a resurgent Supervalu are parking their tanks on Dunnes Stores' lawn. Possibly a big mistake. Margaret Heffernan is a formidable operator – and if there's one thing she likes, it's a good fight.

Sunday Indo Business

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