Friday 15 November 2019

TH€ PUNT: A salutary lesson from Jobs

THE Punt has never really liked French designer Philippe Starck's minimalism but is very fond of the Steve Jobs' variety which prevents half the world from having to engage with all the complicated stuff that makes computers work.

So it was with some interest that we read about a $100m super-yacht built for Apple's late co-founder, which has been impounded in Amsterdam because of a dispute over an unpaid bill to Starck.

Jobs never got to use the yacht – called Venus – but had commissioned the French designer to work on the vessel, which cost more than €100m to build.

A lawyer representing Starck's company Ubik now says his client had received €6m out of a €9m commission for his work on the minimalist vessel and was now seeking to recover the rest of what he was owed.

The yacht will remain in Amsterdam port pending payment by lawyers representing Jobs' estate.

"The project has been going since 2007 and there had been a lot of detailed talk between Jobs and Starck," said Roelant Klaassen, a lawyer representing Ubik.

"These guys trusted each other, so there wasn't a very detailed contract," he said.

It seems even the greatest businessmen and innovators sometimes forget the basics – like drawing up a proper contract.

Malone trophy is real bargain

John Malone, the American billionaire who has snapped up the massive Humewood House in Co Wicklow for €7.2m, has got a real trophy property on his hands.

Malone, who is chairman of communications group Liberty Global (the owner of TV, phone and broadband firm UPC), got a deep discount to the €25m paid for the luxury 427-acre Victorian estate by John Lally's Lalco Holdings back in 2006.

Lalco bought it from German socialite businesswoman Renata Coleman, who had acquired the property in the 1990s. She lured guests such as John Travolta, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston with a high-profile duck hunt.

Also among the more notable visitors to the expansive estate in recent years was Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand-based German internet millionaire who was arrested last January and is awaiting extradition to the US to face money laundering and racketeering charges.

Malone, who has Irish roots, plans to renovate Humewood, and with his Liberty Interactive unit having recently secured control of travel site TripAdvisor, just imagine what the possibilities are for promotional activity. Dotcom might not be welcome back though.

Gambles pay off for Paddy Power

Paddy Power is making more changes at the top layer – moves that will see it bolster its retail side of the business in Ireland and the UK.

The retail element in Ireland has been hit by the downturn, but has held its own in a market where rivals have fled.

In the UK, Paddy Power sees an opportunity to significantly boost its presence. At the moment, it has about 200 shops there but commands only a very small part of the high-street market.

It has proven itself to be a resilient business, and the company this year launched its online services in Italy.

All the while, its share price has continued to rise. In fact, just this month it breached the €60 mark and the stock has delivered a 51pc return in the year.

It has also hit another landmark – it now has a market capitalisation of over €3bn.

Not bad for a company that was founded in 1988 by cobbling together a few market players.

That market capitalisation confirms its position as one of the country's biggest listed companies.

Paddy Power is increasingly becoming an international business. It already has a foothold in Canada, providing product, pricing and risk-management services to British Columbia's Lottery Corporation's online betting business.

It also has a business presence in France, and of course an extensive consumer footprint in Australia. It is increasingly looking like 2013 is going to be a very busy year for Paddy Power.

Happy Christmas to all our readers.

Irish Independent

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