Friday 23 August 2019

The Punt: UK businesswoman Deirdre bounds into Ireland

ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell
ICG boss Eamonn Rothwell

The Punt

High-profile UK businesswoman Deirdre Bounds is behind a new Youghal-based business called Go Cambio.

It's sort of a language version of Air Bnb - travellers get a place to stay in return for providing their host with language tuition.

"The idea for Go Cambio came to us while out for a Sunday walk along a cliff in Co Waterford. We asked ourselves why people paid so much money for language lessons abroad and talked about how difficult it was to even find a conversational language tutor," Go Cambio's website reads.

A former stand-up comedian who appeared in an episode of Channel 4's 'Wife Swap', Bounds sold her company I-to-I, which arranged trips for people teaching English as a foreign language, for around £20m back in 2007.

She started I-to-I from her bedsit and describes herself as a recovering alcoholic.

The Punt hears she's going to invest a substantial wedge in Go Cambio.

Bounds says of all the countries she's travelled to, Greece and Ireland are her favourites.

Pressure on Nick Ashmore

JANEY Mack talk about pressure. The new head of the State's Strategic Banking Investment Corporation (SBCI) Nick Ashmore had the unenviable task of joining a brace of his political bosses on the podium at yesterday's launch of a new €400m lending fund for small business.

In what must go down as one of toughest first public appearances by a State official Mr Ashmore, who has been in the job since December, joined Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton and heavyweights Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin to launch the fund at an event at Dublin's Liffey Trust.

The soft spoken accountant held his own, speaking as fluently as any of the Economic Management Council big wigs to a packed audience of business owners, media types and public servants.

That certainly can't have been easy, though as the former deputy director of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), at least he could be confident of being on top of the numbers.

He'll have to be mind you. Bad as having to deliver a speech in front of his political masters might be it is likely to in the ha'penny place compared to being answerable for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's money.

Thanks to persuasion from Enda Kenny German investment bank KfW is a key backer of SBCI. As the poor old Greeks know to their cost "Mutti" can be tough when it comes to recouping cash.

O'Dea sets sail from ICG

Shipping firm Irish Continental - which operates the Irish Ferries passenger vessels - is waving off its long-time finance director Garry O'Dea.

He's been with the company since 1988, having trained as an accountant with KPMG. He joined ICG from CRH and has been on the board ever since.

He'll turn 60 in May, when he'll drop anchor and head for shore.

ICG chief executive Eamonn Rothwell - who also turns 60 this year - praised Mr O'Dea, saying he had made a "unique contribution" to the business.

All the ICG senior executives have done very well out of the company. Mr O'Dea leaves owning 1.13m shares in the business. They're currently valued at €4m.

He was also paid a total of €566,000 in 2013, which included a €283,000 basic salary, €165,000 in a performance bonus and a €104,000 contribution towards his pension.

Mr O'Dea is the second long-time ICG director to announce his retirement this year.

Tony Kelly, its group marketing director, leaves next month. He leaves with 330,000 shares in his back pocket, worth €1.1m.

He was paid €407,000 in 2013, including a €206,000 salary and €120,000 in performance pay.

ICG navigated the choppy waters of the recession without much drama, and in the process has still managed to undertake share buybacks and pay big dividends.

One of the biggest beneficiaries has been Mr Rothwell, who owns 14.8pc of the company.

Irish Independent

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