Saturday 18 November 2017

In focus: Good times have stopped rolling for some long established firms

In the final part of the series, we explore the rest of the country's famous business dynasties and how they've fared as the country endures its darkest hours

<p><strong>Ryan Family</strong></p>
<p>Wealth 2007: €1.5bn</p>
<p>Wealth 2010: €558m</p>

Ryan Family

Wealth 2007: €1.5bn

Wealth 2010: €558m

McMahon Group

Wealth 2007: NA

Wealth 2010: NA


Wealth 2007: €106m

Weath 2010: €104m


Wealth: 2007: €45m

Wealth: 2010: €41m

McMullan Brothers

Wealth 2007: €174m

Wealth 2010: € 89m

Roche Family

Wealth 2007: €868m

Wealth 2010: €576m

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

THE fortunes of family-based businesses often mimic the economic cycle, rising and falling as the tide ebbs and flows. Some manage the ride better than others through good risk management, timely R&D, new products and services, and being in the right place at the right time.


The Cork-based company, which has been on the go since the start of the last century controls an estimated 40pc of the €78m of tea sold every year in retailers around the country and has been one of the most successful families when it comes to protecting wealth. The firm is unlimited, and so doesn't have to file publicly available accounts.

The company's managing director, Tony Barry, owns 55pc of the company, with the remainder split between other family members including Conor, Donagh, Peter and Fiona.

The Barry family, which includes former foreign affairs minister Peter Barry among its ranks, has been quick to expand outside the tea business with mixed success. The family owned over 8pc of the failed Channel 6 broadcaster which was subsequently acquired by TV3. Tony Barry joined Barry's Tea in 1986, having graduated from UCC, qualified as a chartered accountant and worked with KPMG for four years.

Allied Irish Banks was recently granted a charge over shares held in Barry's Tea by Donagh Barry in respect of €8m the bank is owed by the director in relation to a property venture that went sour. Donagh Barry had pursued the venture with his brother-in-law, Michael McCarthy. AIB could sell the stake to recoup money owed to it.

McMullan Brothers

Dating back to 1920, the McMullan family still controls the Maxol business that comprises over 210 service stations around the country.

Directors include Max, Noel and Malcolm McMullan, while Tom Noonan is its chief executive. Latest accounts for the business show that operating profit slumped almost 80pc to €2.4m, while turnover fell nearly 8pc to €643m. Dividends of over €1.7m were paid that year.

The company said that while the first six months of 2008 had been satisfactory, the rapid fall in oil prices from all-time highs coupled with a severe economic downturn eroded first and second quarter surpluses due to losses on stocks purchased at higher prices, and reduced volumes. The company has been spending €20m updating its service stations.


The north Co Dublin fruit producer and distributor has been on the go since the '30s. Massive investments by the family firm has enabled it grow peppers in Ireland and a new €10m glasshouse venture created an estimated 100 jobs and allowed the company to sell fresh strawberries to the Irish market for most of the year.

The company is owned by father Joseph, who is chief executive and chairman, and offspring William, David and Caroline. The Irish business, William P Keeling, is unlimited and so doesn't have to file publicly available accounts.

A circuitous ownership structure via the Isle of Man leads back to Dublin, with Joseph Keeling owning a slightly larger stake of one of the investment holding firms Gundagai and the remainder split equally between William, Caroline and David. William is managing director of the UK business, Caroline is group MD and David is MD of the company's fresh side of the business.

Among its non-executive directors are former Dunnes Stores executive Liam McGreal and Jacobs Fruitfield managing director Seamus Kearney, who is a former Aer Lingus chief operations officer. Although no accounts are available, Keelings has previously indicated that its annual turnover is in the region of €350m, while it employs close to 1,900 people.

Despite the recession, and having survived through others, the company is apparently in rude health. Before it went unlimited, in 2004, the company reported a €1.5m profit on turnover of €241.6m.

Ryan Family

When Tony Ryan founded Ryanair in the eighties, the airline was quickly on its knees. Its collapse was prevented by a cocky executive called Michael O'Leary, who transformed it into the low-cost giant it is today.

The Ryan family made a fortune from the airline, but has little substantial holding left in it. Tony Ryan died in 2007, and his son, Cathal, died just two months later. Siblings Declan and Shane continue to benefit from the legacy of the airline's success, and their investment vehicle Irelandia Investments owns just over an 11pc stake in Singapore-based Tiger Airlines, which flies throughout Asia.

Keenan Agricultural Equipment

Based in Borris, Co Carlow, the Keenan family business has been on the go for over 30 years and was established by the late Richard Keenan. Today, the business, which is one of the biggest of its type in the world, is headed by his son Gerard, who is executive chairman.

The company manufactures specialised high-end food mixing machinery used to feed cattle and its products are exported all over the world.

Latest accounts for the business, for 2008, show that its revenue was €57.8m that year, up from €51.7m in 2007, while pre-tax profit rose to just over €2m from almost €1.8m.

The accounts note that there was a slowdown in its business sector last year as farm incomes and farm output prices fell.


The Shaw family hit the headlines lately -- something they would no doubt have wished didn't happen -- after it emerged that one of the major shareholders in the department store chain, Sheila Shaw, notified other family members of her intention to sell her stake.

The decision by Ms Shaw to do so is likely to have caused a stir of emotions at the group, which operates 15 outlets in provincial towns around the country and was founded in 1865.

The chain is headed by her nephew, Jonathan Shaw, who is chief executive. Ms Shaw and her immediate family own about one-third of the business and the rest of the family now face the prospect of an outsider muscling in.

The Irish retail environment has become extraordinarily tough in the post-boom period and accounts for the two companies that account for the bulk of the stores underscore the shift.

Latest accounts available, for the 12 months to the end of January 2009, show that Shaw Sons, which operates seven stores, made a €68,000 loss after tax as revenue was virtually unchanged at €26.5m.

Another group company, WG Hadden, which operates four Shaws outlets and Haddens shopping centre in Carlow, made a €1.2m pre-tax loss as turnover fell 13pc to just over €18m.

Stafford Group

The owner of Lifestyle Sports, which it acquired in 2005 for €59m, the Stafford Group owns a range of assets including Campus Oil, a property firm and a shipping company which operates out of Wexford. The company is currently in its fourth generation of family ownership, and is headed by 35-year-old Mark Stafford. The chairman, his father, is Victor Stafford, who along with wife Kathleen own 28pc of the group, while their seven children control the remainder.

The company's retail presence has been expanded beyond Ireland to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while in late 2007 the group announced plans for a €150m expansion of the Lifestyle Sports brand amid an effort to transform it into one of Europe's leading branded sports equipment retailers by 2012. Latest accounts for the business are for the 12 months to the end of September 2008.

They record group turnover of €466m for the period and pre-tax profit of €231,000 compared to a €13.3m pre-tax profit in the nine-month period to the end of September 2007. The group has been hit by higher fuel prices at its Campus Oil and Stafford Fuel arm, while its stevedoring and warehouse business is also likely to have come under pressure in the downturn, as is Lifestyle Sports.

McMahon Group

The Limerick-based builders' providers has been in operation since early in the nineteenth century and also imports lumber. It has already been feeling the post-boom pinch, with latest accounts for its holding company showing turnover fell 24pc to €144m in 2008 and that it recorded a pre-tax loss of €4.8m compared to a pre-tax loss of €10.2m in 2007. The company is headed by Mark McMahon, who owns the largest stake in the business. Other shareholders include David McMahon and Anthony McMahon. It paid total dividends of €880,000 to shareholders last year, down from €2.1m the previous year.


Car distributors and dealers were among the big winners during the boom, but as the recession took hold they began dropping off like flies. Convest, which controls the Peugeot franchise in Ireland and the Gowan Group, made massive profits in the last decade for its shareholders -- Gemma and Michael Maughan and their family.

Convest made a pre-tax profit of €27m in 2006, but recorded a pre-tax loss of €51m in 2008. The reversal of fortune is stark. Gemma Maughan has a 46pc stake in Convest, while her daughters own the remainder.

Irish Independent

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