Business Irish

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Samantha McCaughren: Home where heart is for philanthropist Berber

Philip Berber’s house in Austin, Texas
Philip Berber’s house in Austin, Texas
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

"To have been blessed with success in business was exciting, but to be able to use those skills to help make a real difference in the lives of so many is fulfilling and purposeful." So says Texan-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Philip Berber, who sold his share-trading firm CyberCorp to Charles Schwab for a sweet $488m in 2000. The Dubliner - who co-founded the charity 'A Glimmer of Hope' with his wife Donna to reduce extreme poverty in rural Ethiopia, as well as helping charities in Austin, Texas - is counting his blessings now that their children have flown the nest.

Berber is selling his stunning lakeside holiday home in Austin, where the couple also have a main home, for €12.9m.

The four-bed, seven-bathroom home is on sale in several lots because it sits on 36 acres of land. It comes with basketball and tennis courts, equestrian facilities, a boat dock, walking trails, fountains, ponds, streams, a pool and spa.

"It's full of wonderful memories for us, particularly from when our children were younger," says Berber who has been listed, along with his wife Donna on Barron's 25 'best givers' list. Berber's charity, engaged in microfinance and water provision in Ethiopia, boasts a 98pc repayment rate on its micro-finance loans - an outstanding return that any business, let alone a charity, would want on its books.

FBD’s Muldoon granted conditional share awards

Over at FBD, chief executive Fiona Muldoon remains in her post after an independent investigation found internal allegations made against her were not upheld.

In a sign that corporate life goes on, Muldoon has just been given a conditional award of a maximum of 33,256 FBD shares, worth more than €350,000 based on trading last Friday.

She won’t get the shares unless the conditions of the company’s performance share plan are satisfied.

That’s a scheme that is designed to provide a financial incentive for a strong company performance.

FBD has not specified what the nature of the allegations made against Muldoon were, and why they were not upheld.

It remains to be seen whether shareholders are satisfied with that state of affairs.

Members of the UrbanVolt team, from left, Maura Ryan, supply chain manager; Edel Kennedy, head of marketing; and Fiona Cairns, commercial pricing manager
Members of the UrbanVolt team, from left, Maura Ryan, supply chain manager; Edel Kennedy, head of marketing; and Fiona Cairns, commercial pricing manager

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The ultra-competitive forecourt market could soon see a whole new round of fancy renovations. The Tedcastle Group, which owns Top Oil — one of the largest Irish fuel sellers — was bought from the Reihill family by Canada’s Irving Oil.

Irving already owns the Whitegate refinery in Cork and this, along with Top’s fuel import facilities in Dublin Port, gives it a strong position that no doubt will be examined by competition authorities.

But with electric vehicles a slow-moving but unstoppable reality for the sector, the real appetiser in this for Irving is most likely to try its hand in Ireland’s highly-developed forecourt food service sector. The Reihill family — who were advised on the sale by corporate law firm LK Shields — previously struck lucrative deals for Top to supply fuel at some of the largest motorway service stations.

Yet, in general, many of Top’s network of more than 200 garages have not had the same fancy makeover as competitors.

But don’t be surprised to see Top’s new Canadian owner bring plans and partnerships to a Top garage near you.

UrbanVolt has the spark it needs for B Corp status

Dublin-based UrbanVolt has become the first Irish firm to join an eclectic international club of companies that includes everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, to Danone, to outdoor clothing company Patagonia.

The innovative energy services company, established in 2015, has been accorded the international B Corp status, which denotes that a firm has met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, governance, accountability and transparency. About 2,600 companies in 60 countries and more than 150 industries have reached the standard but this is a first for an Irish company. Edel Kennedy, head of marketing at UrbanVolt, said the company had been inspired by Patagonia’s desire to use the power of business to fundamentally change the world for the better: “Businesses have to make money to survive, that’s a given. But that’s not enough anymore. You have to use the power of business to do good and influence positive change in the world, especially when it comes to the environment,” she said.

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The term ‘contactless payments’ took on a new meaning for me last week. That’s when I found myself stranded in the foyer of an upmarket Dublin hotel one morning with no payment method at all for the posh tea and designer sparkling water I had ordered in advance of a planned tete-a-tete with a business contact.

Having left my purse (with cash, cards, ID and business cards at home) at home, a frantic 15 minutes ensued as I tried to work out how I would pay for my elevenses.

The twin sister/personal bank manager was abroad and I was neither close enough to work or home to drum up financial support for my plight, whilst a mortifying call to the hotel’s GM went unanswered.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t entirely contactless, as a kind chief executive came to my aid. So thank you Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation — and new first-time dad — for sparing my blushes and spotting me €20.

It was a happy ending, but contactless payments can’t come quick enough.

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