Business Rich List 2016

Friday 15 December 2017

Ireland's Rich List: Technology and property lead the charge of newly super-rich

No. 287: Lorraine Twohill
No. 287: Lorraine Twohill
No. 39 Nigel Eccles
No. 145: Colm Lyon
No. 68: Seamus Ross

Almost half of the 26 new entries this year came from the technology sector as booming valuations of private companies or "unicorns" boosted wealth estimates. The next biggest sector to provide new entries was property, fuelled by rising asset values and a number of high-profile exits from Nama.

There were more new entries this year than there were last year (25) but it remains well down on the staggering 44 new entries in 2012 as the economy inched towards recovery. There were 38 new entries in 2013. After several years without a woman as a new entry - and years without anyone from Carlow on the list at all - we now have both in the form of Google's global head of marketing, Lorraine Twohill, who makes the list for the first time. Google is now the biggest company on the planet and the Carlow Townie has been part of the inner circle for more than a decade.

The highest new entry this year is Nigel Eccles, who moved from a dairy farm to the US to work in financial consultancy. He is now one of the biggest players in the fast-growing fantasy sports business, thanks to his role in co-founding the FanDuels company. He's only slightly wealthier than Andy Ruhan, who grew up in Galway and made his fortune developing data centres and hotels in the UK.

There's an increasing number of younger entries making the list this year. The bulk of the super-rich are in their 60s but technology company exits or funding rounds have increased the number of thirty- and forty-somethings on the list.

Eoghan McCabe and Des Traynor make the list this year as their Intercom business was valued at €500m after a funding round. Movidius, an 'internet of things' company, has also catapulted founders Sean Mitchell and David Moloney on to the list this year.

Colm Lyon, who netted €92m from the sale of Realex, joins Pat Phelan and Chris Kennedy, who sold Trustev for €40m, as new entrants this year.

No. 39 Nigel Eccles
No. 39 Nigel Eccles

Exiting Nama has seen the likes of former Treasury Holdings boss Johnny Ronan, Cork developer Michael O'Flynn and Menolly Homes Seamus Ross. Back in the boom, Ross was considered to be "a billionaire", according to his Banking Inquiry statement. The next year or so will see the likes of Sean Mulryan and Gerry Gannon re-enter the list on paying off Nama.

While 26 new people have entered the list, it also means that 26 have also dropped off it. The hurdle for entry rose to €31m, up nearly 20pc on last year. It was €24m in 2014; €23m in 2013 and it took just €19m to make the bottom rung in 2011. That means that it has almost doubled in five years.

The biggest jump upwards was experienced by John Magnier. We always knew that the Coolmore boss was astronomically wealthy but new information from a number of weapons-grade sources have seen estimates of his fortune rise by more than €1bn. And that may still be on the low side.

Some people have suffered major reassessments downwards. Denis O'Brien had the biggest cut in his wealth estimates, largely due to his Digicel empire operating in areas which have seen serious currency weakness against the dollar or the euro. Hilary Weston - the second richest Irish person on the list - had her wealth estimate chopped, too, as the Canadian dollar slumped, hitting the value of her assets.

Several Northern Irish property developers have tumbled off the list, primarily because we are unable to properly assess their debt and the value of their assets.

Limerick rockers The Cranberries have also gone. Aryzta number two Patrick McEniff and Avoca Capital's Alan Burke are other departures, primarily because of falling stock prices.

It's worth noting that fortunes can be lost as fast as they are made. Tony O'Reilly and Sean Quinn both topped Rich Lists - not ours - in the last decade. Both are now bankrupt.

Sunday Independent

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