Business Irish

Sunday 22 April 2018

The worm has turned since the Millennium bug

Roisin Burke

SO MUCH has changed since the new millennium dawned 10 years ago. Back in 2000, a little known individual by the name of Sean Quinn had edged his way into the ranks of the country's richest people.

With wealth heading for €5bn in 2007, the Quinn Insurance founder was possibly the country's richest person. A €450m fortune initially built from quarrying had been spun out into investments in an insurance empire, hotels, bars and property. Ten years into his success, his punt on Anglo Irish Bank shares, investments in hotels and other exposures will have cost him dear.

Back in 2000, Campbell's Soup billionaire John Dorrance was Ireland's wealthiest individual, with an estimated €2bn fortune. It's thought to be about €1.4bn now.

With their €1.6bn combined wealth, former Heinz chairman Sir Anthony O'Reilly and his shipping heiress wife Chryss were considered to be Ireland's richest couple. Their fortune is thought to be currently in the region of €1bn.

Ten years ago, the dotcom bust was just making itself felt. Trintech founders John and Cyril McGuire had joint worth of more than €1bn in 2000. The software company was hammered during that year, losing 95 per cent of value in 12 months leaving the brothers' fortune at a mere €50m.

Back in 2000, tech entrepreneur Pat McDonagh had reaped over €250m in rewards from software companies he founded in the 1980s. But the worth of Rapid Technology (later Third Force) and Riverdeep was slashed by half by mid-2000.

Canny billionaire Dermot Desmond dodged the dotcom bullet, getting out of Baltimore Technologies around this time, and making €70m in the process. He made €20m when BT bought Esat that year and €10m from a punt on aircraft leasing outfit Pembroke. Despite a sentimental attachment to underperforming Celtic FC, Desmond's riches have more than doubled to beyond the €1bn mark ten years on.

JP McManus was cutting a dash a decade ago, splurging €1m on a pair of racehorses, paying The Corrs to play at his kid's birthday party and getting Tiger Woods to play at his Pro-Am. Well if you're worth in excess of €600m, why not? Speculation was at fever pitch over whether the gambling legend would buy Man Utd. He didn't, but was part of a company that bought a €30m share, along with John Magnier.

His Pal John Magnier already had the Aga Khan and the Queen of England as clients of his Coolmore stud and his wealth exceeded €100m. It's now nearly €800m.

U2's riches were pegged at €700m in 2000. They're fallen a small bit. Fellow entertainer Michael Flatley was a new arrival, valued at €60m with the help of Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames. He's more than quadrupled his money since.

Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone sold for €2.8bn in 2000, bringing his worth to €500m and netting him €300m on the sale. He's now thought to be worth over €2.5bn.

Ryanair founder Tony Ryan was worth around €500m at the turn of the millennium. His CEO at Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, saw his efforts in setting the airline on course were also being well rewarded, his shares were then worth over €250m. He's now worth €285m or so.

Cardboard box multi-millionaire Michael Smurfit's fortune was some €450m in 2001, compared to around €368m now.

Dunnes Stores boss Margaret Heffernan and brother Frank Dunne were both worth €500m each. Their wealth has stayed at this level a decade on -- but the retail sector's recent sufferings may change that.

Sunday Independent

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