Angel investor and founder of electronics, hardware and consumer goods design, manufacturing and distribution firm PCH, Liam Casey (54) has set down some roots in London recently, buying a house there last year.
But the Cork native still also flits between there, San Francisco and Shenzhen as well. The Cork-headquartered firm is unlimited, meaning its accounts aren’t public. At one stage, his 33pc stake in it was worth at least €150m, but that may have since changed. Casey appointed former Flex CEO Mike McNamara as PCH’s chairman last year, and it’s thought he took a stake in the business, attracted by recent renewed growth after the loss of a lucrative contract with Apple several years ago, when revenues would have been about $1bn a year.
Casey also has made a fortune thanks to his clever backing of startups. He backed Stripe when it was worth $10m, and it’s now worth $35bn, possibly making tens of millions on the six-figure sum he invested. A punt on smart lock firm Latch could be worth 20 times what he put in. He’s also backed Talivest, Soda Says, Pat Phelan’s Sisu Clinics, GirlCrew, Toothpic, and Student.com.
Media-shy developer Seamus Ross (67) was one of the country’s biggest builders during the boom. The GAA and horse racing enthusiast assembled a large portfolio of land in west Dublin, much of which is thought to have gone into Nama. He was a client of Anglo, and one of the controversial ‘Maple 10’.
These days he’s involved with Dublin and Meath developer Alanna Homes, which has 10 developments listed on its website. In 2018, he was reportedly in talks with then Dublin-listed shell firm Zamano about a reverse takeover of a housebuilder to which he was linked.
He previously owned a Scottish castle and a valuable art collection. Two of his daughters run Dublin’s Dylan Hotel. He is thought to have backed bank software firm, Econiq.
Law graduate Sharon McMahon (49) is one half of the female duo who have led the country’s largest supermarket group, Dunnes Stores — and its clothing and homeware offerings — upmarket in the last three years. The other half of the duo is Anne Heffernan, daughter of matriarch Margaret, who is McMahon’s aunt.
The firm’s share of the €12bn grocery market was as high as 23.6pc in January, up from 22.8pc in December. It has gained a slight edge on rivals SuperValu and Tesco, which are hovering around the 22pc mark. That edge has been achieved partly by a move towards both aspirational and experiential retailing, curating designers in clothing and homeware, and bringing artisan-type concessions onto the shop floor for everything from meat, fish and cheese to coffee and a café. Clothing sections have been styled by a firm that designs upmarket European department stores and a number of designer-brand shops.
McMahon is believed to work on the property and operations side of the firm, which was founded in 1944, and now has 134 stores on the island and in Spain. It exited the Britain in 2018, and banked a €284m dividend. The business is thought to have revenues exceeding €3.6bn. While the majority of its companies are unlimited, shielding them from scrutiny by way of accounts, one of them in Dublin has €149.3m of assets.
Derry City FC chairman Philip O’Doherty (59), who divides his time between Derry, Donegal and Dubai, is hoping the club will qualify for the Europa League this year.
Doing so would boost the club’s income, and help to cover its operating costs, which will amount to £1m this year. After gate receipts and sponsorship fees, plus any other income, O’Doherty has financially supported the club for a number of years, and makes sure any shortfall is covered.
He can do so thanks to his highly profitable Donegal-based business E+I Engineering, which was founded in 1986, and manufactures data centre switchgear and power distribution equipment. It is among the most profitable firms in the country, and made pre-tax profits of €57m on revenues of €268m in 2018. It employs about 2,000 people at its head office in Burnfoot, and others in Dubai, the US, and the UK.
The firm has paid out dividends of more than €105m in the past seven years. At the end of 2018, it had €57m in cash in the bank, and a further €105m in accumulated profits. Because it’s so profitable, the firm might be worth over €590m. This could value O’Doherty’s 80pc stake at about €470m, but for now we are conservatively estimating his wealth.
He is believed to have been approached about a sale of E+I in 2016 and again in 2018. He is thought to be looking to make acquisitions in the US.
Monkstown-based Bob Etchingham (66) owns about 31pc of the acquisitive Applegreen group of petrol stations, upmarket forecourt shops and motorway service stations. The firm has 483 sites here, in the UK and in the US. The firm took a 40pc stake in a US chain of petrol stations last August, and hopes to add to its portfolio there. Turnover for the first half of 2019 was €1.48bn. Sales of food and non-petrol products will increase its small profit margin in time.
Shares are down about 12pc for the year, valuing Etchingham’s stake at about €210m, while previous salaries and dividends add to his overall wealth.
Galway native Gabriel Ruhan (55) and his brother Andy (57) made a fortune after sharing in the success of IT firm NaviSite, which sold to Time Warner for $230m in 2011 (earning them about €127m), and submarine cable firm Global Marine Systems, which sold in 2014 to HC2 for €208m. Their 76pc stake in GMS would have been worth €158m. Ruhan is a keen rugby and motor racing fan, and is currently the CEO of an African fintech firm, which does business in seven countries there, including Ghana, and has over three million customers. He has invested in a UK dentistry business, and is believed to have invested in property and tech. UK court filings show that the brothers lost out on a potentially lucrative property deal with Britain’s BAE some years ago that would have seen them acquire large sites in Bristol and Wales for £93m. The Bristol site was later bought by a Malaysian firm currently working on an £800m development.
2019 was a pretty good year for Rory McIlroy (30), with four wins on the golfing circuit, and becoming only the sixth golfer to win the career Triple Crown. One of the world’s highest paid athletes, and the third highest-earning off the course, he took in $39m (€36m) up until October — made up of $8m in salary and winnings and $31m in endorsement earnings — according to Forbes magazine. He then added another $1.74m after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in November.
Prior to that, besides winning the Players Championship, he also won the RBC Canadian Open and the FedEx Tour. The Holywood, Co Down native counts Nike, Omega, TaylorMade, United Health Group and Upper Deck as sponsors. The Nike deal is thought to be worth as much as €180m, at least five times what Tiger Woods’s deal was worth.
His Dublin-based management services company had a retained loss of $150m at the end of 2019, connected with amortising (writing down) his image, IP rights and related trademarks, which are now valued at $244m. He is involved in a Birmingham data centre investment, and a former police station in Sheffield which is being converted into a Hampton by Hilton-branded hotel.
He is thought to have a number of sports cars, including a €380,000 Lamborghini Aventador, has a private jet that costs between €3m and €5m a year to run, and properties in Dubai, Florida and Holywood. In November, it was reported he was hunting for a new summer home in London or next to Wentworth golf club in nearby Surrey where homes cost at least several million. He closed his Rory foundation last year that supported various children’s charities, saying that he was going to adopt a private philanthropic approach.
South Dublin-based sailing enthusiast Michael Chadwick (68) emerged as a shareholder in beleaguered travel software firm Datalex last year, and will be nursing losses after its shares were suspended when it suffered accounting issues and lost Lufthansa as a customer. The fortunes of the former chairman and director of builders merchants and DIY retailer Grafton Group fared better regarding his 8.2pc stake in the firm, which is up about €38m on the year, thanks to its shares being up about 8pc for 2019. He owns a number of investment properties including Dún Laoghaire marina, and has backed a number of tech startups, including AI-based theft prevention firm Everseen, Jobbio and Micksgarage.
Armagh-born Chris Rea (68) founded Rotherham-based AES Engineering, a business which became the world’s largest manufacturer of mechanical seals for the oil, gas, food, pharmaceuticals, water and mining industries. It employs over 1,800 people around the world, and celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. He plans to add 200 more staff, and a £20m expansion of its headquarters. He was awarded a CBE last year for services to business, innovation and exports.
AES booked £181m (€215.5m) of revenues in 2018, and pretax profits of £34.7m. Rea earned £15m in dividends that year. Private equity group 3i took a 40pc stake in the business in 2007, valuing it at €120m, but it’s likely to be worth a multiple of that now.
Dalkey resident Denise Harris is the widow of the late Robert ‘Pino’ Harris, who died in 2017 at the age of 75. His privately-owned Harris Group, which he founded in 1961, became the largest truck dealership in the country.
The firm had franchises for LDV, Hino, Iveco and Isuzu vehicles. Today, the business consists of a number of Dublin-based unlimited companies, meaning they don’t file public accounts. It profited handsomely during the boom and the subsequent economic recovery, as sales of commercial vehicles increased.
Harris came from humble roots, and was the son of a Limerick horse and scrap metal dealer who moved to Dublin and got started in truck assembly. Renowned for his attention to detail and salesmanship, Harris was close to Fianna Fáil in north Dublin, particularly during Charlie Haughey’s leadership. He bought and sold land and properties in and around Dublin over the years, and was at one time a part-owner of the €65m Cristina O yacht.
Motor racing and Japanese martial arts fan Tommy Dreelan (63) and his brothers Sean, Ciaran and Michael, who are all from Ferns, Co Wexford, but now living in Aberdeen, Scotland, made a €180m fortune in previous years selling oil services firms QServ and PSL. At the end of 2018, an Aberdeen-based Dreelan firm had assets of £11.5m and £6m in shareholders’ funds, according to UK company filings, so it seems they’re back in business and making good money again.
Tommy heads up the Celtic Speed motor racing team and races Porsche 911s and classic Le Mans cars. He owns a number of them, as well as some old F1 cars. He’s raced in Monza and Daytona, and has been a regular at events on the UK motor racing calendar at Goodwood and Silverstone. He and his wife bought a penthouse apartment in Ballsbridge that cost several million in 2012. Ciaran recently treated himself to a 540-acre farm and sporting estate with equestrian facilities outside Aberdeen.
Tipperary native Bart Murphy (61) is among the wealthiest Irishmen in San Francisco on account of his property firm, Murphy Investments. The firm owns over 1,000 apartments in the city, where the average rent is $3,700 a month for a one-bed, and about $1,000 more for a two-bed. The properties are believed to bring in an annual rent roll of at least €20m, but it could be significantly more.
The low-key Irishman is a qualified barrister, and graduate of King’s Inns. He still keeps a link with Tipperary, owning a farm there. He also owns a Jaguar classic car and enjoys horse racing, having previously owned a number of steeds. A fan of Democrat candidate Joe Biden, Murphy also supports the American Ireland Fund, and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
Eamonn Rothwell (64), the CEO of Irish Ferries operator, Irish Continental Group, picked up a €2.15m salary last year and was awarded €1.56m worth of shares in December. In recent years, this brings the total he’s earned in dividends, salaries and share sales to over €35m. Despite Brexit and fears of fewer British tourists due to the weakened Pound, ICG’s shares are up 10pc at the time of writing, valuing his stake of about 15.4pc at €146m. The firm returned over €26m to shareholders last year. He is a shareholder in retail tech firm Everseen, and is believed to own a number of commercial properties.
Dublin-based brothers George (79), Henry (77) and John (75), as well as members of their extended family, Owen, JP and Richard Sisk, are directors of Sisk Group, one of Ireland’s largest private companies. From its roots in 1859, the firm now has operations in Abu Dhabi, Belgium and Poland, as well as here and in the UK, where it makes 95pc of its revenue. Group turnover at Sicon, the holding company, was up 24pc in 2018, to €1.17bn. Profit was up 6pc to €28m.
Among the projects it has worked on are the new Curragh Racecourse, Capital Dock and Center Parcs in Co Longford. It is also a big player in building social and affordable homes here and in Britain, where it also restored London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Other clients include Penneys owner Primark, Facebook and Microsoft. Sailing fan George treated himself to a 44-foot XP44 yacht last year — which probably cost a few million — in which he won the O’Leary Life Sovereign’s Cup.
Paul McGuinness (68), who divides his time between the US, London, the south of France and a large estate in Co Wicklow, is perhaps best known for his former role as U2’s manager. He was central to their success, ensuring they earned a record 25pc royalty in their heyday. He likens their enduring success to a football team that keeps winning the World Cup.
More recently, he’s been the executive producer of big budget Sky TV series Riviera, set in the south of France, and now in its third series. He has a home there close to those of the four members of U2. Riviera Pictures, a UK firm connected with the venture turned over £30m (€37m) in eight months between 2016 and 2017, but lost over £1m. McGuinness is reportedly working on several more TV projects and a film.
He was born in a military hospital in Germany, where his father was in the RAF. His mother was a teacher from Kerry. McGuinness initially earned 20pc of U2’s income as a fee. Later, he got a 10pc stake in Island Records, earning him a €40m windfall shared with the band when the label sold to Polygram in 1989. Over the years, he also signed landmark deals for touring, with Live Nation — to which he sold his firm Principle Management for €21m — as well as others with Apple and Blackberry.
He has a shared interest with former Principle director Trevor Bowen in a bloodstock venture in Co Kildare into which they’ve sunk €12m over the years. In the past, he has invested in tech startups including Run Angel and Wholeworldband. There are believed to be property investments here and in London.
Dundalk native George Moore, who died in 2013, developed a love of single malt whisky in his adopted home of Virginia in the US, and today his wife Angela, son Gareth and his wife Maggie are carrying on his dream, making whisky at their Virginia Distillery Company, hosting tours, tastings and events.
Also survived by two daughters, Moore was no stranger to success, selling his first company, NDS for €80m in 1990, and then banking a second windfall from a minority stake in software firm TargusInfo, which sold for €507m in 2011. Newry native Angela is a passionate philanthropist, she sits on the board of UCD Smurfit School’s advisory board, The Ireland Funds and Women in Business NI. An advocate of female entrepreneurship, she invests in tech and other startups here and in the US, dividing her time between Co Louth and Virginia.
Cork-born entrepreneurs Denis Desmond (66) and Caroline Downey (58) have made a fortune in the food, music, theatre and events business, as well as through other clever investments over the years. The Killiney residents sold half of a promotion firm they owned, 40 year-old MCD Promotions, to global music firm Live Nation — a US business whose UK and Irish operations he runs, and which jointly owns UK company LN-Gaiety with him. MCD brought acts including Michael Buble and Taylor Swift here. To what degree Desmond and Downey — who manages Wicklow singer-songwriter Hozier — may have benefitted is not yet clear, however.
One UK firm paid them a £9.8m (€11.7m) dividend in 2018. UK firm Festival Republic made £20m in profits on £100m of sales in 2017 and 2018 — income derived from festivals here, the UK, Spain and Germany. There are also stakes in a festival and club night promotion firm in Manchester. Live Nation Music UK reported £233m of sales in 2018, but lost £11.5m, selling 5.5m tickets for just under 4,000 shows. A related holding company had £165m of assets, including £90m in shareholders’ funds.
Desmond was previously involved in takeaway Abrakebabra, and is a backer of clean air firm Novaerus. He is believed to have property assets here and in the UK. They are backers of Dublin’s Gaiety and Olympia theatres, and the Limelight in Belfast.
The man behind the famous family pan will have been one of few people in Ireland to have enjoyed Storm Lorenzo, with shoppers “panic buying” loaves of Brennan’s. The family company has been under the same ownership since 1972, but the market has become increasingly competitive with new entrants and bakers from the UK competing. Last year, Brennan and family sold a four-storey property on London’s Oxford Street to an investment vehicle owned by Tadashi Yanai, founder of the Uniqlo fashion brand. Having evaluated the property portfolio held by the family, we estimate Joe’s wealth is actually much higher at €200m
Based in Antrim, transport tycoon Harold Montgomery (71) and his family own Ballyvesey Holdings, a group of businesses mainly centred around haulage that had revenues of €730m in 2018, and had €140m in shareholders’ funds. Profits get paid into a family trust.
The firm is a player in warehousing and freight management, truck, van and plant rental and distribution, commercial vehicle auctions, plant dealerships, and truck trailer manufacturing in the UK and Northern Ireland. There are also commercial properties in Poland, the UK and Ireland.
Keen cyclist and Tipperary-born property developer Johnny Ronan, (66), took out a series of newspaper ads last year campaigning for taller buildings to be permitted in Dublin last year.
But his battle against Dublin City Council for two extra floors to be built on his Ronan Group Real Estate’s Salesforce tower appears to be in vain. He has even greater ambitions though, including for the 44-storey Waterfront South Central tower on the north quays. There is a large development planned for Cherrywood, and for 5,000 built-to-rent apartments in Dublin, which would make the Colony Capital-backed RGRE the city’s largest private landlord. Offices owned by Ronan are let to Facebook and Amazon, commanding hundreds of millions in rent over their terms.
Ronan was synonymous with Treasury Holdings and its developments such as the National Convention Centre and Leopardstown’s Central Park before the crash. Now several years free from the shackles of Nama, having paid back over €250m of personal debt, he hasn’t ruled out development plays in London or China. While his family home is in Enniskerry, a villa he owns on Burlington Road has been listed on Airbnb for €1,000 a night.
The assets are controlled through a complex web of companies, but one significant Ronan company, RGRE Holdings, had €189m of investment properties, made a profit of €22.6m, but had €200m of financial liabilities.
Portadown-headquartered Clearway Hammond Group is one of the largest waste management and scrap recycling firms in these islands. The business was founded in the mid-1960s by the late John and Dorothy Murphy. Today, children John, Paul and Tracey Murphy not only make money from this company, but also distribution, compression and bathroom equipment.
A family-controlled holding company had £8.2m (€9.6m) in shareholders’ funds in 2018, and paid a dividend of £75.4m (€89m), which was originally held in shareholders’ funds as well. The family has now set up an Isle of Man holding company.
Sons David and John Donnelly have followed their former bookie father Joe (73) into the property game.
The art collector and horse racing enthusiast sold a betting business in the 1990s, banking around €27m, which laid the groundwork for a far larger property fortune made from investments in Cork — including the historic former Royal Victoria hotel— on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and London. Some of the current assets are held in a Luxembourg holding company, while two Irish firms have €77m of assets. Joe and his wife Marie own art works by Matisse, Picasso, de Kooning, Eileen Gray and Georg Baselitz.
Former accountant Lochlann Quinn (80) — who has a penchant for Ferraris, went to Blackrock College and after whom UCD’s business school is named — made most of his money in 2004 when he sold a 26pc stake in heating and kitchen appliance manufacturer Glen Dimplex, the firm he co-founded with Martin Naughton, who bought him out.
The duo still share a business interest in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, each owning a quarter share. Founded as a hobby, they keep a collection of paintings there that they have built up together.
He is believed to have property investments here — previously banking about €40m from selling some office blocks in the IFSC — and in London, including two in Mayfair. There is also the €38m Chateau de Fieuzal vineyard in Bordeaux, France.
The Keating family’s Kepak group — which employs more than 5,000 people across 43 countries and works with 28,000 farms — had to lay off 1,125 people and shut some of its Irish plants during last year’s beef protests.
The business was started by Noel Keating in a butcher’s shop in Dublin’s Liberties in 1966. He then went on to establish Kepak in Clonee, Co Meath in 1981. Today, his children Liam (50), Catriona (47), Niamh (44) and Stephen (43) control the company, which has an estimated turnover of €1.5bn. Sales increased significantly in 2018 after the firm acquired 2 Sisters red meat business, which had €550m of revenue, but was loss-making. Accounts for one business there show £167m of revenue, but a loss of £7.77m, so margins seem under pressure.
Kepak’s Irish companies are unlimited, meaning the accounts aren’t public. Some of the siblings are involved in restaurants and property investments. In October, the firm was the first European meat company to secure access to the $122bn US burger market.
Portwest, the 116-year-old outdoor, protective and workwear business is thriving from its Mayo base of Westport, and the Hughes siblings and children that run it also own the Hotel Westport, the Carraig Donn giftware retail business and Westport House.
Portwest has €133m of assets on the books and saw its profit increase by over 70pc in 2018 to €32.8m, on sales that were up by €39m to €185m.
The family aims to grow the business to €1bn sales, having acquired the Huski and Prime Mover Workwear firms in New Zealand and Australia. Despite the family’s Westport roots, it is stuck in a planning battle for a new global HQ building there.