Saturday 19 October 2019

Lily O'Brien boss aims to double business following Carlyle Cardinal move

Eoin Donnelly, managing director of Lily O’Brien’s. Photo: Tony Gavin
Eoin Donnelly, managing director of Lily O’Brien’s. Photo: Tony Gavin

Colm Kelpie

Eoin Donnelly, managing director of Lily O'Brien's Chocolates, is looking to double the business over the coming years in the wake of Carlyle Cardinal Ireland taking a majority stake in the firm in 2014.

Mr Donnelly, inset, said the Newbridge-based business is growing, and is up 18pc in 2014 versus the previous year.

"We're going to be up again this year, which is great," Mr Donnelly told the Irish Independent. A joint venture between US private equity group Carlyle and Dublin-based Cardinal Capital, Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, acquired a majority stake in Lily O'Brien's (around 80pc) last year for a rumoured €15m.

Mary Ann O'Brien, the company's founder, has a significant minority shareholding and Mr Donnelly also holds a stake.

"No time has been wasted [since the deal]. Plans kicked in right away last year. We doubled our capacity last year, but the plans now are how do we fill it?" Mr Donnelly said.

"We are growing and growing significantly. We're planning to double our business over the next few years. If we've doubled our business in the next five years, then I'd be looking at expansion again."

He said Carlyle Cardinal came with a "rolling action plan" that effectively became their plan for the first 100 days.

"As soon as the deal was done, effectively we were into, "now here's the new scenario". We knew it was going to be that. It was what we knew it was going to be. They were difficult enough when they were across the table from us, I do remember saying, at one stage, I can wait until they're on the same aide of the table as us because they have great experience and great knowledge that we would be able to add to the business," Donnelly said.

Carlyle Cardinal appointed a non-executive director, Steve Newiss, who is chief commercial officer with Burton's Foods - which has a number 2 position in the UK biscuit sector.

The UK is Lily O'Brien's main market, and its primary focus.

Around 20pc of business is in the US and just under 10pc in Australia.

Asked what an expanded company would be like in five years, Mr Donnelly said he would like to see the business heading towards the "magic number" of €50m.

"I would want our chocolate business to be extremely strong, but I would want our desserts business to have grown substantially. Currently it's 90pc chocolate, 10pc desserts. I would want that desserts business to have grown as well," he said.

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