Sunday 20 October 2019

The Comer Brothers

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The Comer Brothers

The Comer Brothers

Worth 2019 €1.35 bn (8.00%)

Worth 2018 €1.25 bn

  • Industry Property

Two former plasterers from Glenamaddy, Co Galway, Brian (59) and Luke (61) Comer have masterfully navigated the property game here, in Britain and in Germany over more than 30 years to the point where they are now billionaires and probably own the largest property portfolio among any Irish entrepreneurs.

They initially made money trading development sites in Britain, then bought there at the bottom of the market. Timing was also key to their building up a huge portfolio of development sites and commercial property in Germany - though they risk being overexposed on shopping centres there, given how shopping habits have changed dramatically.

More recently, they hoovered up unfinished developments, commercial properties and development sites in Galway, Kildare and Dublin from Nama and non-Irish banks when the market bottomed out here. Values have rocketed, rapidly increasing their wealth.

They are believed to be planning at least two apartment schemes in Cork's docklands.

One deal last year is instructive of how they make their money. They bought the 190,000sqft Beckett office building in Dublin in 2015 for perhaps €5m. They spent about €30m on a high quality fit-out and then let it to Facebook for €4.53m-a-year for 15 years. They then sold it for €101m, suggesting they almost tripled their investment.

Their business is structured in a complex web, with over 150 companies in the UK and Ireland alone, some of them unlimited so they don't have to file accounts. At one point in 2015, the brothers estimated that their assets were worth €3bn excluding debt. That could have risen by €1bn since then, based largely on profits that would accrue from Irish investments, according to one estimate. We are conservatively adding €100m to their wealth this year.

Monaco-based Luke Comer - who regularly takes budget Ryanair flights between Germany, the UK and Ireland - owns hundreds of acres of land and a number of stud farms in Meath, Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin. His horse-breeding operation is said to number over 200 thoroughbred horses, but to date, he's only had one winner at a small race in Killarney last year, racing records suggest.

He made a donation to support the Pope's visit to Ireland last year. Both brothers bankroll Galway FC meanwhile, while they also bought a 103-acre site near Athenry in their native county where it's reported they plan to build a centre to nurture young soccer players.

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