Monday 18 February 2019

This year got off to a less than ideal start for Dermot Desmond (68), the billionaire investor who has become renowned as one of Ireland's greatest dealmakers.

Datalex, the airline software supplier of which his private equity firm, International Investment & Underwriting (IIU) owned, at time of writing, 26pc, had seen its share price take a tumble after it said its earnings had previously been misstated and that it was now facing a loss.

The steep and sudden decline in the share price that followed saw as much as €30m wiped off the value of IIU's shareholding.

Such a big loss could be calamitous for other investors but, for Desmond, Datalex is just part of a much wider and generally hugely successful story.

Long before becoming a legendary investor, the Cork-born businessman started out in banking and then made his first fortune in 1994 after selling the stockbroking firm he founded, NCB, for €49m, using the money to build up IIU.

Ever since, Desmond has invested in a wide range of companies, from Arctic diamond plays to Scottish football club, Celtic FC to a stake in Independent News & Media, which publishes this newspaper.

He is credited with developing Dublin's now booming IFSC in the 1980s and a trust linked to his family is reported to have received permission to demolish and rebuild Ireland's most expensive house - Walford on Shrewsbury Road.

The house had fetched €58m in 2005 for previous owners but the trust paid just €14.25m for it in 2016.

The tech sector has always been a big draw for Desmond. A €300,000 stake in Baltimore Technologies - later sold at the top of the market - proved a winner for Desmond, while a €20m investment in Optimal Payments was worth €180m just four years later. More recently, IIU invested €3m in gaming startup Vela Studios, according to reports.

But perhaps his most legendary - and no doubt most lucrative - deal was the sale of London City Airport for €1bn in 2006, having bought it for €30m in 1995. He and his fellow investors are thought to have shared about €950m in pure profit from the deal.

He has also made big returns from the sale of his 25pc stake in One51, as well as the €120m he made from the original €475,000 he invested into Denis O'Brien's Esat.

Online Editors

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