Thursday 19 April 2018

Stripe's Patrick Collison: 'Take this plane to Cuba,' demands rubber duck

Departing Miami with my co-pilot. Next stop: Havana’ tweeted Patrick Collision on Monday
Departing Miami with my co-pilot. Next stop: Havana’ tweeted Patrick Collision on Monday

Patrick Collison, the 20-something co-founder of online payment revolution Stripe, is probably the only Irish billionaire to have flown his own plane to Cuba.

Last week, Collison followed President Obama into Fidel Castro's former stronghold, as relations between the US and the Caribbean island thawed considerably.

Obama even gave Stripe's Atlas entrepreneur-in-a-box programme a shout out, although he described Collison's firm as "an American hi-tech company".

The Castletroy magnate delighted his Twitter followers by piloting a Diamond DA42 from Miami to Cuba. "Departing Miami with my co-pilot. Next stop: Havana," he tweeted on Monday.

His co-pilot for the flight was a rubber duck.

The flight took him just one-and-a-half hours. "Not too. Bad. Need to work with someone to arrange permit but was pretty straightforward. Overall, recommended!" he tweeted.

Given that the sensationally fast-growing Stripe's recent funding round has given it a valuation north of $5bn, Collison may soon be needing a co-pilot that isn't plastic.

Caretaker Noonan gets a spanking as falling markets hit his personal wealth

Our caretaker Minister for Finance Michael Noonan saw his own personal wealth take a hit over the past few weeks as he got spanked by the recent stock market wobbles.

Last year, Noonan's declaration to the Oireachtas of his own personal investments showed that he had taken a punt on gold to hedge against market volatility but had also bought Portuguese bonds in a show of solidarity with a fellow bailed-out nation.

Each year, Oireachtas members must declare any shares or financial interests they hold with a value of over €13,000. However, recently updated filings show that the Limerick TD no longer has the Portugal 4.35pc October 2017 government bond. He also increased his exposure to equities last year as the world stock markets cratered.

Noonan's own private investments for the 2015 calendar year give extraordinary insight into what he really thinks about the global economy - after all, he is the man at the table when the key financial minds congregate in Europe.

Noonan has turned bullish on Ireland and Germany, adding the ISEQ 20 ETF and a MSCI Germany fund to his portfolio. These track movements in top Irish and German shares. He has also purchased a Vanguard Industrials ETF, which invests in primarily US-listed industrial companies. He also bought a chunk of the SPDR KBW Bank ETF, which owns shares in US banks.

These investments were added to Noonan's existing portfolio, which already included the Marketvectors Agri-Business ETF, the SPDR Gold shares ETF, the Powershares International dividend Achievers ETF, a Barclays Capital TIPS ETF and an iShares FTSE 100 ETF.

The filings don't say when the acting Finance Minister splurged his own cash. The global stock market rout that started at the end of December means that if you'd bought the bulk of these investments a year ago, you'd have lost your shirt. And then some.

Many have been complete dogs over the last 12 months. The German fund fell off a cliff, shedding 20pc of its value since March 2015 - although it is recovering.

The Marketvectors Agri-business ETF has also plummeted by close to 20pc, with the Powershares International Dividend Achievers fund achieving similar losses. The iShares FTSE 100 has also been hammered as has the KBW Bank ETF. In fact, only the gold ETF shows any upside since March last year.

While Fine Gael flubbed the election because it failed to feel the pain, Noonan must be personally very aware of the damage the market crash did to stock market investors' wealth.

If you thought we'd left those 'banker in big pay-off' days behind, think again

Exploding heads and spittle-flecked outrage greeted revelations that Colm Doherty had picked up €3m at the exit door when leaving AIB in 2011.

Doherty had stepped in to run AIB after the former CEO Eugene Sheehy had been sucked out the window when the bank went into a death spiral.

Doherty, who later went on to work with businessman Denis O'Brien's Siteserv and Beacon Hospital, received a salary of €432,000 for the 11 months he worked as chief executive and a "termination payment" of €707,000 in lieu of a year's notice. He was also given a €2m cash payment, instead of a pension contribution.

Doherty left the bank with a big cheque as it ran out of money and needed a €20.5bn bailout. The IBOA slammed the payout as a "hammer blow to reform".

In April 2011, Simon Coveney described the payment as "inappropriate", with Michael Noonan saying: "This Government will be making decisions to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Fast forward almost exactly five years. Another bailed-out bank. Another loss-making bank. And another executive director getting a big pay-out.

Permanent TSB, which was bailed out by the taxpayer, has just paid €402,500 to its former finance director Glen Lucken, who "resigned" to go back home to England "for family reasons and to pursue other interests", according to the reports.

"In September 2015, Mr Lucken resigned from the board of PTSB. At the end of his employment as a director of the Group, Mr Lucken is contractually entitled to a payment in lieu of notice of €402,500," notes the latest annual report.

Permanent TSB lost €425m last year - largely weighed down by exceptionals - making it harder to justify paying hundreds of thousands to an executive who has left to look for a better job.

Tony Smurfit's unopposed coronation at Smurfit Kappa leaves markets unfazed

Appointing Tony Smurfit to replace Gary McGann as chief executive of Smurfit Kappa last year was a less complicated process than it might have seemed.

Smurfit is young, smart, driven and has a name that works well on company business cards. But should he have been the only serious contender from the get go?

Smurfit Kappa set up a committee to find someone to replace Gary McGann last year as McGann approached retirement age.

The committee was made up of Smurfit board members and included: chairman and former CRH boss Liam O'Mahony; former Glanbia boss John Moloney; Coca-Cola's Irial Finan; Chicago private equity baron Sam Mencoff and former Packaging Corp of America chairman Paul Stecko.

Tony Smurfit had been identified as a candidate during earlier succession planning and following "a comprehensive process" the committee was satisfied that he was "the person most appropriate to fill the role".

The opportunity to look outside the Smurfit eco-system was not taken up.

It was an opportunity for some fresh thinking and new blood.

However, "the committee did not use an external search consultancy or open advertising for the appointment of the group chief executive as it was not deemed necessary," according to company documents.

The fact that shares are down more than 10pc since his appointment suggests that the market hasn't yet given a ringing endorsement to the Smurfit delivery.

Sunday Indo Business

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