Monday 17 December 2018

'Vikings' studio owner O'Connell says he plans to fund €90m expansion himself

 

Joe O’Connell, the Wicklow entrepreneur who owns Ashford Studios, is planning to fund its €90m expansion himself. A number of series, including Vikings (pictured) are filmed at the location
Joe O’Connell, the Wicklow entrepreneur who owns Ashford Studios, is planning to fund its €90m expansion himself. A number of series, including Vikings (pictured) are filmed at the location

John Reynolds

Joe O'Connell, the Wicklow entrepreneur who owns Ashford Studios, where the TV series Vikings is filmed, is planning to fund its €90m expansion himself.

It is understood O'Connell had held talks with a number of potential co-investors or sources of finance on funding his expansion plan - which was granted planning permission last week - but no further progress has been made to date.

"We won't rule out anything, because the permission is for 10 years and the expansion is likely to be done in a number of phases.

"Building on the success of Vikings, which is currently using all our existing infrastructure, combined with funding from our group of businesses, we will finance the next phase of expansion ourselves," spokeswoman Shelley Hargadon said.

"Film and TV production is temporary, so there is financial risk regarding investment versus a return. This makes funding particularly challenging. Raising capital through banks, for example, is difficult for this reason.

"Our options are further limited as the project cannot be state assisted under EU law, which ensures compliance with fair competition in each country," she added.

Ashford Studios booked a €1.59m profit in 2016 according to its most recent accounts, and had a cash pile then of €2.37m. O'Connell also has a business manufacturing products such as barbecues and iron stoves, Universal Innovations, from which there is cash flow to fund the expansion.

The studios employ up to 450 people when a production is under way. The expansion, consisting of four new studio spaces and additional buildings, could create up to 1,500 more in a county that sees little attention from the likes of the IDA.

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