Friday 22 November 2019

Nick Webb: And the Oscar for brass neck goes to...

Patrick Kennedy
Patrick Kennedy
Chef Dylan McGrath

Nick Webb

IT was watch through your fingers stuff. Paddy Power's defence of its Oscar Pistorius ad campaign was a cringefest. Paddy Power boss Paddy Kennedy is usually pretty shrewd. But boy was he blindsided by this.

Even so, he's miles richer despite the clanger. Paddy Power has form when it comes to drumming up cheap publicity by winding up easily offended people.

There was the poster about which little old lady would be run over, an ad that became the most complained about poster of 2002. Then there was the blind footballer kicking the cat – the most complained about ad of 2010. Or the poster of Jesus and the Apostles gambling at the Last Supper. Or the Italian ad of Jesus cleaning up football, which was banned.

Last week, the full might of the holier-than-thou PC brigade came shrieking down on Power Towers over the Oscar Pistorius moneyback offer. Yep, it was in bad taste. It's no worse than a Jimmy Carr joke. But that's the Paddy Power schtick. It's not supposed to be the Irish Times.

But Patrick Kennedy's reddener will be dulled by the bonus fest at the bookie last week with €12.3m worth of Paddy Power shares up for grabs. Almost €6.6m shares vested under a long-term incentive plan for chief executive Paddy Kennedy. He was also conditionally awarded another mountain of shares worth €3.18m at current prices – subject to hitting certain marks. Jack Massey also got a share payout worth €1.49m.

Kennedy's chef de cabinet Cormac McCarthy was of course the chief executive of Ulster Bank in an earlier life. That's the bank that has needed a €15bn bailout by the British taxpayer because of its lunatic lending binge here. McCarthy is well on the way back, with a stock award worth €1.14m, which may vest in three years' time. That's the ultimate money- back promotion.


Economy finally has an appetite again, says celeb chef McGrath

Restaurants are the real barometer of a recovering economy, but Dylan McGrath is loathe to call an end to the downturn.

"I don't want to say that everything is over and everything will be okay," he tells me over a cup of coffee in his uber-slick Fade Street restaurant. But there are signs that things are getting better. "Genuinely, I think we're coming out of the bottom. I do see that.

"When people think they are getting something that is value for money, they are more likely to spend, maybe have chips or a better glass of wine."

Fade Street recently ran a tapas promotion that seriously boosted volumes on Sunday nights.

"It was very tough to start a business in Ireland with the banks all closed," he said, scratching his chin. "The truth was that we got more credit from suppliers than we did from the banks."

One of the chefs walks over with a plate of wobbly pudding. It gets sent back because Dylan isn't happy with they way it looks. "Try putting it in a glass," he orders.

"We set up in the hardest market in the world. Ireland in the middle of a recession. But Fade Street has been busy since it opened. You have to keep working your business. It doesn't just happen for you."

Choosing the right offering at the right price point is key. The average customer pays €37 in Fade Street, which is well down from the €160 paid back in the boom at his Michelin-starred Mint restaurant.

With RTE's ratings-hit MasterChef back on the air, McGrath is also looking at not one but two new business ideas.

"I'm always looking at new ventures," he said. "I'm building a development kitchen – it's a kitchen without customers, where I can create. It's the whole floor above Rustic Stone and it's the first in Ireland. So if I want to do four new dishes for Fade Street or one of the other restaurants, I can do it there. Or if I want to go back to fine dining, I can do it there."

He's also looking at a new 'healthy eating' restaurant concept. "I'm researching it at the moment," he says, sipping his Americano. Will it be all wheatgrass and stuff like that? "Feck no!" he roars. It'll be "cool and calm".

Er ... rather like the chef himself.


O'Leary wants wins, not horseplay at Cheltenham

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary isn't mucking about with Cheltenham this year.

He had more than 40 runners in early declarations for the festival, which will thin down closer to the tape being raised at 1.30pm on Tuesday.

O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud operation, has some real smoking-hot contenders, too. Winning the Ryanair Chase might be easier if you have not one but five entries. First Lieutenant and Last Instalment are his hottest entries and most likely runners. O'Leary's Trifolium (tipped by Glanbia boss Siobhan Talbot a few pages back) is near the top of the betting for the Arkle on Tuesday, at odds of 5/1 or less. Mozoltov may also run.

The big race is the Gold Cup on Friday, with O'Leary having not one but four entries. Most likely to make a good impression are dual Arkle's entries Last Instalment and First Lieutenant, although Bog Warrior is interesting too.

On Wednesday, O'Leary may run Lieutenant Colonel in the Neptune at 20/1, Don Cossack is available at 14/1 for the RSA Hurdle and six early entries in the Coral cup. The mauve silks with a white star will also be carried in the Bumper by Aminabad.

There are six early entries in the JLT Novices Chase including Arnaud, with Rule the World a steamer in the World Hurdle. Anything above 8/1 is way too high. Keep an eye out for Balnaslow in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir on Wednesday, too. Very Wood runs in the Martin Pipe.

The airline boss has a decent-priced Tiger Roll in the Triumph Hurdle. Not much chance of it ending up on the inflight menu.

Failure is not an option for the Ryanair boss. Underperformance is not acceptable.

"Eighteen were sold. I clear out the rubbish every year. I've no interest in having shit horses," O'Leary told me recently. Fighting talk. Fill your boots.


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