Saturday 7 December 2019

Nick Webb: Live Nation after Harrys' theatre

Margaret Heffernan
Margaret Heffernan

Nick Webb

Live Nation's Irish boss Mike Adamson was putting the final touches to the newly re-branded 3Arena when I dropped in last week. There's a lot of redecoration underway as new sponsor 3 has taken over the venue, which is now called 3Arena. It's only five years since €80m was spent on a facelift but new sponsors mean a new image. Close to 1m concert goers head to the 14,000 capacity venue each year, which gives 3 bang for its buck.

Live Nation is in the frame to buy the €20m Grand Canal Theatre from Nama. "Yeah, we've been in discussions," he told me. Live Nation bought out Harry Crosbie's interests in the former O2 last year and is looking to gain control of his interest in the Grand Canal Theatre too, which is being sold by Nama. It's a 200-year lease, which effectively means that it would own the theatre until the end of time. Live Nation already has the management contract at the theatre but it's not a done deal, as big name players including Denis O'Brien have also been linked with bids.

Live Nation's Irish operations are running pretty much bang in line with last year, with revenues heading towards the €25m mark. The quality of the touring acts is way more important than the national economy for putting bums on seats. With Lady Gaga, Elton John, James Taylor and Kasabian on the slate for the autumn, the new 3Arena is tuning up nicely.


Dunnes Stores's boss Margaret Heffernan approaches checkout

Along with Feargal Quinn, Margaret Heffernan is probably Ireland's greatest retailer. Unbelievably tough and more than a little scary, Heffernan has been the driving force behind the extraordinary growth of Dunnes Stores over the last three decades. Dunnes is by far the biggest Irish-owned grocery and clothing retailer on the market, with 116 stores here.

However, there are changes afoot at the top level of Dunnes Stores, most recently with the departure of finance chief Joe Webb earlier in the month. Matheson partner Robert Heron and former Superquinn money man Richard Collins joined this year. Fashion designer Carolyn Donnelly was hired as creative director to drive the key homewares and women's fashion units.

But Heffernan is also handing over more and more responsibility to her niece Sharon McMahon. McMahon and Anne Heffernan - Margaret's daughter - have also joined the board of ones of Dunne's Stores subsidiaries Silverwood Developments. The 44-year-old solicitor and Ailesbury Roader is seen as the most likely person to take over the reins at Dunnes Stores when Heffernan ultimately withdraws fully from an executive role. This may be far sooner than expected, with industry chatter suggesting that Heffernan is preparing to check out.


Breon cashes in as FeedHenry sold for €63m

Cathal McGloin's Waterford based technology firm Feedhenry was gobbled up by RedHat in a €63m all cash deal last week. The buyout, first reported in these pages, generated spectacular returns for some backers. And these backers are well used to a gamble.

Betfair boss Breon Corcoran has emerged as one of the significant private shareholders in the firm and is likely to clear at least €500,000 on the transaction. Corcoran, the former Paddy Power number two, is joined by co-investor Peter O'Donovan in the firm. Fergal O'Rourke, the well-connected PWC number cruncher and son of former Fianna Fail Minister Mary O'Rourke, is also a shareholder.

Ciaran McNamara, co founder of property buyout group Signature Capital is a shareholder, with Signature also having a chunk of equity. Former Cuisine de France founder Ronan McNamee, who sold his croissant firm to the then IAWS, has been chairman of the firm.

All in all, a good result for Cathal McGloin, who was previously behind Performix and Aran Technologies.


EY rakes in fees of €3m from Irish Water spendathon

So how does Irish Water spend all its money? After an epic Freedom of Information campaign, I received details of the quango's spending on goods and services from the period in March when it came under the Act, all the way up to the end of June.

The big accountancy and legal firms have been at the trough. It's as if the banking crash had never happened. Business goes on as usual.

EY, the former auditors of Anglo Irish Bank, was one of the big winners for the Irish Water spendathon. The firm, headed by Mike McKerr, earned over €3m in fees at the start of the year, with invoices ranging from an intriguing "data cleansing project" to "data modelling."

Shaun Murphy's KPMG snagged over €700,000 in work, split between "internal audit reviews" and "quality assurance services". Julian Yarr's A&L Goodbody bagged nearly €1.5m in fees related to "procurement advice" or legal support. Brian O'Gorman's uber connected Arthur Cox only earned around €70,000 in fees.

Duncan Stewart's Earth Horizon TV production company got over €55,000 including a big sponsorship cheque for a series of Eco Eye.

Sunday Independent

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