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The billionaires club: Who are Ireland's richest people?

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Galen Weston and his wife, Irish-born Hilary

Galen Weston and his wife, Irish-born Hilary

Galen Weston and his wife, Irish-born Hilary

SEVENTEEN of the world’s billionaire individuals and families are Irish citizens, according to a new report on the gap between rich and poor.

Oxfam says this equates to 3.5 billionaires per 1 million residents here – the fifth-highest ratio in the world. Only Hong Kong, Cyprus, Switzerland and Singapore have more billionaires per head of population.

The US leads the world in total billionaires with 607. China has 324, Germany 114, India 106 and Russia 98.

Oxfam says growing global inequality means the world’s 2,153 billionaires own more wealth than 4.6 billion people.

The report – published to coincide with this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – suggests these are Ireland’s richest individuals and families.

Estimated net worth comes chiefly from the 2019 ‘Sunday Independent’ Rich List. These are the top Irish billionaires:

1. THE WESTONS

€7.1bn

Hilary and Galen Weston founded the Primark brand as part of amassing a family fortune topping €7bn. Their sprawling Wittington Investments retail portfolio includes Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, the Loblaw grocery chain in Canada, the high-end British chain Selfridges, and Fortnum & Mason. The Westons today divide their time between Toronto and a luxurious gated community in Florida.

2. THE COLLISON BROTHERS

€5bn

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Brothers Patrick (CEO) and John Collison, co-founders of Stripe, which has been described as America's second-largest startup.
Photo: Bloomberg

Brothers Patrick (CEO) and John Collison, co-founders of Stripe, which has been described as America's second-largest startup. Photo: Bloomberg

Bloomberg

Brothers Patrick (CEO) and John Collison, co-founders of Stripe, which has been described as America's second-largest startup. Photo: Bloomberg


If you bought anything online recently, the odds are strong that the payment was processed by Stripe, the firm founded in 2010 by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison. They sold their first company, Shuppa, while still in their teens. Both brothers dropped out of college early – from MIT and Harvard respectively – to develop the online payments technology that would make their fortunes.

Stripe’s software allows businesses to connect websites and apps instantly with credit card and banking systems.

The idea attracted early backing from Tesla founder Elon Musk and PayPal’s Peter Thiel. Businesses including Lyft and Facebook and have turned Stripe into the financial backbone of their operations. Despite their wealth, the brothers share a modest apartment in San Francisco. Their biggest luxury is a private plane.

3. JOHN DORRANCE

€2.44bn

John Dorrance III’s chemist grandfather invented Campbell’s formula for condensed soup a century ago. It has generated massive wealth for his heirs, and John ‘Ippy’ Dorrance III cashed in his 10.5pc stake in Campbell’s Soup in the 1990s. Around the same time, he moved to Ireland with his Finnish-born wife. He was granted a passport after he invested $1.5m in a tree-planting project and is believed to have a home in Dartry in Dublin 6.

4. DERMOT DESMOND

€2.1bn

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Dermot Desmond. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Dermot Desmond. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Dermot Desmond. Picture credit; Damien Eagers


Long considered one of Ireland’s greatest dealmakers, Mr Desmond today is currently the largest shareholder at troubled travel software firm Datalex. The Cork-born businessman started out in banking and made his first fortune in 1994 after selling the stockbroking firm he founded, NCB, for €49m. His wide-ranging investments since have included stakes in Arctic diamonds, Celtic FC and Independent News & Media. Last year he sold his 15pc stake in INM for €22m, roughly breaking even in the process. He is credited with developing Dublin’s now booming IFSC in the 1980s. His most lucrative deal was the 2006 sale of London City Airport for €1bn, which his investment group bought for just €30m in 1995. He also made €120m from his original €475,000 investment in Denis O’Brien’s Esat.

5. DENIS O’BRIEN

€2.05bn

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Denis O'Brien. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Denis O'Brien. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Denis O'Brien. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM


Mr O’Brien made his first fortune from Esat Telecom which he built up in the 1990s and sold to British Telecom Group in 2000 for €2.4bn.

He brought his telecoms expertise to the Caribbean with Digicel, which today operates in more than 30 countries across Asia, Oceania and Central America.

Another early success was winning a new radio licence for Dublin, 98FM, which he still owns through Communicorp, also home to Today FM and Newstalk.

He took a loss exceeding €450m last year when he offloaded his majority holding in INM. He also has investments in property, healthcare and hospitality, including the Beacon Hospital in Dublin and the PGA Catalunya and Quinta do Lago resorts on the Iberian peninsula. He owns a superyacht named Nero and a luxury ski chalet in the French Alps called Chalet Chocolat Chaud (Chalet Hot Chocolate).

Online Editors