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Beef baron with Midas touch is the ultimate comeback kid

HE is the ultimate comeback-kid. In August 1990, Larry Goodman's debts of nearly €700m were outlined to a shocked Dail. The emergency session had been convened because it was believed that one of Ireland's most successful businessmen was about to crash and burn.

Mr Goodman's beef empire had been exporting meat to Saddam Hussein's Iraq until UN sanctions following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait left Goodman International on the hook for €225m.

It looked like the beginning of the end for one of Europe's biggest beef barons.

Convoluted credit insurance schemes were unveiled during the subsequent Beef Tribunal and Mr Goodman's business slipped into the ownership of the banks.

But the man who started out as a 15-year-old school dropout selling sheep-gut for sausage skins was always renowned as a wheeler-dealer extraordinaire.

He pulled off the coup of his career when he bought back the business from the banks in 1995 for €38m.

Ever since, the notoriously secretive Mr Goodman has gone from strength to strength, with the latest 'Sunday Times' rich list ranking him the 15th richest man in Ireland with a fortune estimated at €745m.

His beef processing company Irish Food Processors stopped publishing accounts in 2001, when turnover was €915m. Since then, Mr Goodman has secured numerous multi-million euro contracts with global customers such as Sainsburys, Burger King, Asda and Tesco.

In addition to the 700-acre estate surrounding his Branganstown House mansion near Castlebellingham, Co Louth, Mr Goodman owns a portfolio of high-profile properties that includes a share of the London headquarters to Goldman Sachs, private hospitals and many office blocks rented out to Irish government agencies.

The farming community has a love-hate relationship with the Louthman, castigating him for the price he is prepared to pay them for their cattle, while continuing to ply his numerous factories here and in the UK with stock because of his cast-iron guarantee to pay on the day.

Mr Goodman is now in his mid-70s and his son Laurence is working his way up in his father's business.

A lifelong non-smoker, teetotaller and workaholic, Mr Goodman's only vice appears to have been a nice car, evident ever since he traded his motorbike for his first red sports car back in the 1950s. A Bentley is his car of choice these days.

Irish Independent