Saturday 20 October 2018

Low-key millionaire truck importer 'Pino' Harris dies

Robert 'Pino' Harris
Robert 'Pino' Harris
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Legendary truck dealer Robert 'Pino' Harris has died at the age of 75. The Dublin-based businessman initially made his fortune importing trucks, securing the franchise in 1968 to sell Hino vehicles from Japan here.

His motor business, combined with property and other investments, served to make him extremely wealthy. His fortune was estimated at about €175m.

Deeply private, Mr Harris lived in the upmarket Dublin suburb of Dalkey. But for many years, even as he became wealthy, he lived in a terraced house in Phibsboro on Dublin's northside.

Mr Harris, who was a Fianna Fáil supporter, was the subject of an IRA kidnap attempt back in the 1980s, but he rammed his way past his assailants in his car. That experience, it is believed, fuelled his desire for privacy.

Mr Harris reportedly got his 'Pino' nickname because as a child he liked pinhead oatmeal porridge. His family had moved from Limerick and his father was a horse dealer who later got involved in the scrap metal business in Dublin.

Mr Harris invested a huge amount of time and energy courting Japan's Hino.

Industry insiders have previously said that Mr Harris was entertaining a group of Hino executives and they asked for his advice on a specific truck problem. He donned overalls, solved the issue, and won them over. The Harris Group remains one of Ireland's biggest truck dealers.

The millionaire was once an investor in the luxury Christina O yacht that had been owned by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who married Jackie Kennedy on the vessel.

Mr Harris has also been heavily involved in property deals at home, sometimes courting controversy.

He had bought former teacher-training centre Carysfort College in Dublin back in 1990 for about £6.5m.

The government at the time, led by Charles Haughey, then effectively told UCD to buy Carysfort, with the university told that the government would provide financial support. UCD acquired it for £8m from Mr Harris just six months after one of his firms bought it.

His death following a short illness was confirmed yesterday by his wife, Denise.

"In accordance with Pino's wishes, the business will continue to operate as normal in support of his loyal customer base in Ireland and the UK," said a spokesperson.

Irish Independent

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