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Dotcom pioneer nets €150m for car auction firm

Roscommon man Peter Kelly has sold his US-based online car auction firm Openlane for a cool €150m in one of the biggest windfalls for an Irish entrepreneur this year.

Last month, rival auction firm KAR -- which is valued at €1.8bn -- agreed an all-cash deal to buy the California-headquartered firm.

The deal, which is expected to close at the end of September, will see Openlane join KAR's Adesa unit.

Kelly, from Castlerea, helped found the Silicon Valley firm, which was recently ranked as one of the 1,000 fastest growing companies in North America thanks to a series of mergers and buyouts of other wholesale car auction firms, during the first dotcom boom.

Kelly studied engineering at UCD before joining UK firm Taylor Woodrow where he ran major projects for eight years. He worked for management consultancy firm McKinsey ahead of helping to set up Openlane.

The company is expected to shift 300,000 cars this year -- which is around the same number of cars that have been sold in Ireland since March 2008. Openlane is forecast to generate sales of more than €71m this year, with earnings of up to €18m.

"I consider this a great combination that will significantly benefit our customers and the industry. Joining KAR will provide Openlane with the resources to accelerate the execution of our strategy and to deliver innovative remarketing solutions to the industry," Kelly said after the deal was announced. He is to remain with the company as its chief executive following the closure of the deal later this month. It is not yet clear what kind of shareholding he owns in the company.

Kelly's Castlerea relations are making major waves in the business world with another family member Tom right at the top of the private equity world, serving as a managing director of the €18bn Blackstone Group.

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