Business Irish

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Richest 300 Irish now worth €62bn

Rising stock markets buoy the fortunes of the super-wealthy, as 44 new entrants join the rich list

U2 frontman Bono
U2 frontman Bono
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

THE 300 richest people in Ireland are worth more than €62bn. That's almost as much as the IMF/EU bailout. It's also more than the combined value of the Luxembourg and Lithuanian economy.

The rich have got richer too. In March 2011, the Sunday Independent Rich List pegged the wealth of the top 300 at about €57bn. This year they are around €4.9bn better off, as stock markets bounced back spectacularly over the last four months. The euro debt crisis saw stock markets crash last summer, wiping billions off the net worth of our billionaires and multi-millionaires but an astonishing rebound has restored their fortunes -- and then some.

In 2010, the Sunday Independent Rich List found that the top 300 people were worth just over €50bn. Despite the recession, some of the super rich are clearly getting much wealthier.

Last week, Forbes magazine reported that there are five billionaires in Ireland. Forbes is wrong. There are 11 billionaires in Ireland -- the same as last year -- though there have been changes in personnel.

Animal healthcare tycoon Pearse Lyons has been catapulted into the billionaire ranks, based on new financial information about his Alltech company. The Louth-born entrepreneur is thought to be worth over €1.5bn.

Ireland's richest man is Pallonji Mistry, a low profile Indian tycoon, who took out Irish citizenship in 2003. His wife Patsi was born on Dublin's Hatch Street. Mistry has a 18.2 per cent of the Indian Tata group, which had interests ranging from chemicals and steel to hotels and offices. It also owns Jaguar cars. Mistry is worth €7.4bn. That's the equivalent of everyone in Ireland's income tax for six months. Forbes magazine suggests that he's the 96th richest man on the planet.

But the last 12 months have been a period of extraordinary turmoil both in the domestic economy and on world markets. There have been corporate calamities and fortunes have been shredded.

Just five years ago, Forbes pegged tycoon Sean Quinn's wealth at somewhere north of €4.55bn. The magazine (now partially owned by U2's Bono) figured Quinn was the world's 164th richest man. Last January he was declared bankrupt, following a disastrous bet on Anglo Irish Bank. A Belfast court heard that he had just €11,000 to his name. His family is fighting to retain control of a €500m property empire in Russia and the Ukraine.

Property developer Ray Grehan was another to go splat, as he was declared bankrupt in December. His companies had debts of €650m.

The property crash in Ireland has dented many people's wealth. Prices for commercial property -- a staple of most millionaire portfolios --have fallen by 65 per cent since the peak. When calculating the net worth of people in this year's Rich List, we have been extremely bearish on property assets. This has made it difficult to value the wealth of people like Tougher Oil's Tom Tougher, kitchen company boss Eamonn O'Rourke and Northern Ireland developer Gerry O'Hare, who once employed Bertie Ahern on the board of his property group. They've been left off this year's list due to the uncertainty over the value of their properties.

While stock markets have recovered much of their lost ground in the bull market since November, some of the richest people in the country are still nursing massive hits. Engineering group boss David McMurtry is down around €170m over the last year, with Goldman Sach's Peter Sutherland and NTR's Tom Roche also shipping losses.

The property market has been decimated and there are fewer than a handful of property tycoons on the list. Any of the property players included are old stagers, who were in and out of the market before things got out of hand. Retail has also suffered as the country laboured through recession. The motor industry and civil engineering sector have also seen wealth estimates pared right back.

But for every loser, there's a winner. This year, there are 44 new entrants. They are all men. The new entrants range from insurance company chief Dominic Silvester, who owns a chunk of rugby club Saracens, and UK hedge fund boss Colm O'Shea. The top earner at his hedge fund bagged €75m in wages two years ago.

Technology is a real winner this year. Major IT company buyouts have seen fortunes made for the likes of John Hearne and Ronan Rooney, who recently sold their Curam Software for €120m. The Turley brothers also sold most of, their €100m valued online car rental business, to a private equity firm over the last year.

Paddy Power's extraordinary share price rise has also seen huge wealth creation -- the shares have quadrupled in value in six years. While David Power, John Corcoran and Stewart Kenny are long since ensconced on the list, it's likely that the 2013 list will see some of the newer Paddy Power executives make their debut. Paul Coulson's glass bottle firm Ardagh is also attracting some pretty racy valuations, making paper fortunes for key insiders.

Business life is extremely volatile. Capitalism is all about the creation and destruction of companies and fortunes. Since the first Sunday Independent Rich List in 2010, 89 people have dropped off the list -- but they've been replaced by 89 new entrants.

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