Rosaleen (74) sold most of her 70pc holding in Mercury Engineering to senior management at the company in 2017. The stake was held in trust for her children, Eamonn (51), Clodagh (49) and Ronan (49), after her husband and founder of the company Frank O’Kane died. Ronan remains at Mercury as a director. Profits at Mercury Engineering more than doubled to €38.7m before tax in 2018. The holding company for Mercury paid out a €7.1m dividend that year.
KN Circet chief executive Donagh Kelly (48) will have been happy to finally see government ink on the National Broadband contract. The company he founded is the major player when it comes to building the growing fibre networks for the various major telecoms brands and is likely to win contracts to build substantial segments of the new rural network over the next number of years. Kelly and his wife Anita enjoyed a substantial windfall in 2018 when KN was bought by Circet, a leading French telecommunications contractor, in a €150m deal. Kelly, who is also one of Ireland’s most successful rally drivers, was a substantial shareholder, with over 75pc of the company. He has remained with the company since the acquisition and revenues have risen to an estimated €1.3bn.
Mark Kavanagh (74) set up Dublin’s original trendy nightspot Captain America’s in 1971 and sold it to developer Paddy McKillen in the mid-1980s. He moved from nightlife to property development and his Hardwicke property group was the developer of most of the early IFSC blocks in the 1990s. He re-entered the Irish property market in 2015 after a gap of 14 years with a small number of office developments and sales to the likes of Hibernia Reit.
Galway-born developer Michael Cotter, alongside his wife Angela, owns Gansu Holdings. The company owns and runs Carrickmines-based Park Developments (Dublin), which, according to its most recent accounts, reported a pre-tax profit of €11.3m in 2017. A keen yachtsman, Cotter’s firm also sponsored the Irish women’s hockey team last year. The company is developing some 1,000 homes at The Gallop’s in south Dublin.
Originally from Cork and now based in Switzerland, Peter (67) and Mary (68) own about 15pc of the company, the largest stake in the Musgrave group, which runs the SuperValu and Centra supermarket businesses. Several other family members own the rest of the group. Total dividends paid by the company rose by almost €1m to €17.9m.
The latest annual report showed that Peter Musgrave’s holding of ordinary shares fell from just over nine million to just over seven million shares. The business has consolidated its position in recent years and in 2018, the last full year for which financial data is available, profits rose €4.5m to €84.5m. In 2018, it further expanded its Irish footprint when it bought Donnybrook Fair for €25m, as well as La Rousse food.
Avolon chief executive Domhnal Slattery (53) saw the aircraft leasing firm hit $2.6bn in lease revenue for the first time last year. Slattery and his managerial colleagues shared pay of over $30m in 2018 at the company he founded but no longer owns. The former GPA executive made €32m when he sold Avolon to Chinese firm Bohai for €1.2bn in 2015. By the end of 2019, the company owned or managed 525 passenger jets with plans to take another 400 from Boeing and Airbus. Concerns that the Dublin-headquartered company could be impacted by debt issues at its ultimate parent HNA have subsided, not least after Orix Corporation bought 30pc of Avolon. Slattery made his first big splash when he sold his first aviation business, International Aviation Management, to RBS for €45m in 2001. He is reported to have paid €5.6m for his Shrewsbury Road home, previously owned by troubled developer Sean Dunne and his former wife, Gayle Killilea.
Co Antrim native Michael Lagan is still involved in the running of Lagan Construction, a civil engineering business that emerged out of a nine-year court battle over the Lagan family business empire. Accounts for a number of companies linked to the construction magnate show they suffered losses in 2018 and 2019. Lagan Construction suffered an €800,000 loss in the year to March 2019.
The family behind the Killeen Group, which holds the Toyota and Lexus franchises in Ireland, would have noted the continued slump in new car sales. As new car registrations fell by 6.8pc last year, to 117,100, the family would have taken some comfort from the fact that the Toyota Corolla was Ireland’s top-selling new car, with the brand itself the second most popular. Headed by 86-year-old Maeve Mahony, the family has been canny when it comes to property investment, with Killeen Group having made profitable moves. The company was tied in a planning dispute with Dublin restaurateur Robbie Fox , after he put the brakes on plans to demolish the Sweepstakes Centre, which would include his Belucci’s restaurant.
Michael Masterson and his family own UK construction and plant firm, Masterson Holdings, which saw profits fall by €400,000 to £7.3m. Directors were paid over £7m over the course of 2018, with a £2.5m dividend also shared out.
CIMC group bought Retlan Group, the manufacturing business set up by father and son duo John (72) and Darren (49), in 2016 for a price believed to be around £100m. Darren was linked with a move to purchase the beleaguered Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus last year, but he pulled out in September.
Monaghan-born Tony White has proven successful in both business and property investment. He moved to the US in 1990, where he set up Abacus Direct, a consumer-data specialist. The firm that worked out what people wanted to buy floated on Nasdaq in 1997, later selling to DoubleClick in a $1bn deal. White collected a tidy sum, believed to be worth around €63m. The tech titan then turned property mogul and alongside his wife Clare, they sold the famous Upper East Side Mellon mansion in 2015 for $37m, having bought the home for $22.5m in 2006. The couple also sold a home across the street to none other than Woody Allen for $25.6m, having bought it in 1998 for $6.05m.
The country’s largest fruit and veg producer and seller, family-owned Keelings, boasts a customer base including Marks & Spencer, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores. Sales at the group, run by Caroline Keeling (50), are estimated to be worth around €300m each year, with sales across the globe. As consumers become more health conscious, sales of fresh produce have increased by 3pc. The company will be keeping an eye on Brexit, however, and how any pending trade deal and delays to logistics across the UK landbridge might affect its push into export markets.
Kerry native Colm O’Shea is a founding partner of fund manager Comac Capital, based in London’s exclusive Mayfair. In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked O’Shea’s fund as the 21st largest hedge fund in the world with $6bn under management. In early 2015, it was forced to give money back to clients following currency turmoil in Switzerland, caused by the Swiss move to uncap its currency. According to its latest accounts, the fund made £1.7m for distribution to members in the year ending March 2019.
Malta-based Patrick (70) Hegarty, Killiney-based John Hegarty (66) and their extended families control the civil engineering and construction group, PJ Hegarty. The family has moved away from the management side of the business but the company’s signage remains a familiar sight at high-profile building and demolition jobs around the country and it has been well placed to benefit from the building recovery.
It recently won awards for its major rejuvenation job at the old Irish Steel site at Haulbowline in Cork, it demolished the infamous Apollo House in Dublin and is the main contractor at the high-profile reconstruction of the ESB’s Fitzwilliam Street headquarters. Turnover at the privately held company in 2018 jumped to €290m, according to the Construction Industry Federation list of Ireland’s top contractors, on which it was listed in ninth place — up from 11 a year earlier.
Houghton Fry (74) has seen a significant recovery in the paper value of his 2pc stake in Paul Coulson’s Ardagh over the past 12 months with a successful refinancing of its debt. Ardagh took a hammering in the wake of its 2017 New York Stock Exchange flotation, more than halving the value of Fry’s stake from €100m to €46m. But in the past year the Ardagh recovery means that stake is now likely to be worth about €80m. He is also the founder of William Fry, one of the country’s largest law firms, and will have seen other investments also rise in the recovering economy
Galway native Bill Hughes spent most of his childhood in the Irish care system, finally making contact with his birth mother at the age of 52. Since acquiring his first care home in 1975, Bill has developed an extensive portfolio to boast 26 care homes, one children’s pre-school and nursery, and a number of other business interests. Profit before tax at the group was up to nearly £15m in the year ended September 2018, up from nearly £13m.
In 1977, Pat Purcell (82) established Mincon Group, floating the specialist mining equipment company on the stock market in 2013. Purcell stood down as chairman last year. This year, Mincon snapped up Finnish firm Lehti Group for €8m, enabling it “to win and supply significant infrastructure projects in North America, Scandinavia, Asia and Russia”. The Shannon-based company is still majority-owned by the Purcells, which saw its share price drop by 27pc over the year, with operating profits down 14pc to €6.9m.
In December 2019 husband and wife team Dan and Linda Kiely completed the second stage of the mega-deal that made them their fortune. In 2016 they struck one of the big Irish tech deals of the decade when they sold a 55pc stake of their startup Voxpro to the Canadian firm, Telus International, for a cash consideration of CA$58m (€39m). The Canadian company followed up by completing a put-and-call option for the remaining 45pc of the shares to bring the value of the deal to a total of up to CA$150m (€102.7m).
Dan Kiely had stayed on as chief executive but was to step down on completion of the second stage of the deal. The couple told the Sunday Independent last year that they were considering establishing a charitable foundation. The pair had met when they worked on the short-lived magazine, Cork Scene. They started VoxPro as a paging business in 2002 with just six people and it had grown to 2,700 staff by the time of the Telus deal. Since then employee numbers have grown to over 6,000.
Former Formula One driver Eddie Irvine (54) made an estimated €45m racing for Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar and won four Grand Prix before retiring in 2002. He has since turned to full-time property development, paying $13m (€11.8m) last year for the Miami waterfront home once owned by singer Enrique Iglesias.
The seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion sits on a massive site on Miami’s Sunset Island, with its own pier, a three-car garage and swimming pool but it was reported that Irvine is to knock the house to develop the site. A previous house he bought, knocked, redeveloped and then sold on Miami’s South Beach was reported to have made him as much as €20m last year.
It had one been home to Jay-Z, Drake and Beyoncé. He previously sold three luxury homes for €27m in 2013, and Northern Ireland. In 2018, he opted to rent out one $21m Miami Beach home for a reported $180,000 a month. He bought an island in the Bahamas and the nearby Exuma Yacht Club in 2011 and is reported to have invested $10m (€8.8m) into turning it into a luxury resort where he now lives.
Already well known as a member of the Galway Tenors, James Murphy (58) hit the business headlines when his hair restoration company Viviscal was sold to US listed Church & Dwight for around €150m. Last year, the Lifes2Good founder invested in Innovate Solutions, a Dublin-based food research group specialising in finding out what tastes good. According to its latest accounts, Lifes2Good reported a €940,000 loss in 2018.
Antrim-based Peter Fitzgerald heads up healthcare diagnostics group Randox. In 2018, the business, which was involved in a police investigation over alleged data tampering the previous year, was back in the black with pre-tax profits of £167,000, up from a loss of £11m.
Dan Browne (82) made his fortune during a golden era that saw Irish meat become one of Ireland’s most successful export commodities. He and his family own around 30pc of Dawn Meats, the meat processor originally established by three farming families in 1980 in Co Waterford. Over four decades it has grown steadily through acquisitions in Ireland, the UK and France and is one of the top three beef processors in the country. In 2017, the company, now run by Browne’s son Niall and in which the Queally family also hold a major stake, acquired the Irish assets of UK meat giant Dunbia and established a joint venture with the firm in the UK. Dawn has annual revenues of over €1bn and is the largest burger supplier to fast-food giant McDonald’s, in 2016 producing its billionth burger for the chain. Of course, the younger generation now running the company face a range of challenges in the meat sector — from Brexit to protesting farmers to the rise of veganism — but Browne built an empire with strong foundations.
Jim Mountjoy’s (74) big moment came in 1999 when he sold banking software firm Euristix to Fore Systems in 1999 for €80m worth of shares. Within a year, the value of the shares had doubled. But the serial tech investor has not rested on his laurels in the meantime, even if much of his energies are now used in the boardrooms of various organisations. He serves as an industry expert for the €75m BDO Capital Development Fund, has served two terms on the board of Science Foundation Ireland and is a member of the board of the Higher Education Authority. He is a non-executive director for a number of companies and previously served as chairman of the computer games software company Havok until its acquisition by Intel. He is also a board member of children’s charity Barnardos.
Thomas McDonogh & Sons, chaired by Tom McDonogh, has been the pre-eminent company in Galway for 150 years, with wide interests ranging from agri supply to property. Tom McDonogh (83) stepped down from his directorships in 2018, a year in which the company posted a €2.2m profit on a turnover of €7.8m. Shareholder funds at the company, which is ultimately controlled by an Isle of Man-registered company, rose to €74m.
Subsidiary company McDonogh Capital Investments obtained planning permission last year for a new €150m office campus in the city that could accommodate 1,500 workers when built. It has redeveloped Galway city’s quays but its property interests extend much further afield than that, even to a building that houses the European Commission in Brussels. Little wonder that it has been said of the McDonoghs that “half of Galway was employed by them and the other half looked on in envy”.
Eoghan Hynes (71) and his family sold insulation business Xtratherm to a Belgian subsidiary of American carpet company Mohawk Industries for about €100m in December 2015.
The former ISME chairman has continued to invest in business prospects, emerging last year as one of the backers of Paddy Leahy’s laser surgery company Galileo Surgical. But perhaps his most colourful business venture since exiting insulation was the establishment of Papa Entertainment, a US-based AIM-listed music publisher and rock promoter. It runs the hit Raiding the Rock Vault show that has a residency at RIO in Las Vegas. In December the show played in London and the UK-registered firm linked to it showed losses of just over £1.3m for the year to the end of last March, similar to the previous year.