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Celebrities sit on their cash and choose to play safe

more than €200,000 each. Rugby stars Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell have squirrelled away even more.

The accounts of Brian O'Driscoll's company, ODM and Promotions Ltd, show a cash-pile of nearly €1.5m.

Its accumulated profits stand at a hefty €2.9m. The Ireland rugby captain's earnings are pumped up by lucrative sponsorships and endorsements, including a deal with Gillette.

Paul O'Connell, who quit as Munster captain this summer, is another big earner, with €850,000 banked, as his career draws to a close. His main company, Nellcon Limited, had accumulated earnings of €852,455 at the end of April 2011.

However, Ronan O'Gara's business lost more than €1.1m last year.

The huge sums are compiled for the first time following an Irish Independent trawl of company accounts and filings, all of which are registered with the Companies Office in Dublin.

That money is being held in companies, rather than being paid out each year as it is earned.

The most striking finding is that big names who are surviving the crash are opting to keep their money in their businesses.

Cash is a low-return, low-risk investment strategy, according to tax adviser Ciaran Medlar, of accountants BDO.

He has advised many of Ireland's elite rugby and soccer stars on their tax affairs and set up the country's first accountancy unit, focused purely on sports income, in 2002.

"The income-tax rate for higher earners is now 55pc -- so why take money out of the business as income, if you don't need it?" Mr Medlar asked.

He said most big-name stars were not sole traders. Typically, they set up companies to manage their finances. Income from employers -- such as RTE, TV3 or the IRFU -- as well as advertising and sponsorship earnings, can then be channelled through the company.

The accounts for these companies are publicly available, although often they are not detailed. Any wealth kept separate from a person's management company is not included.

A host of stars from the world of television and radio have continued to earn significant sums during the recession.

Broadcaster George Hook's main company, Foxrock Communications Ltd, had a cash balance of over €400,000 at the end of last year.

Marian Finucane has long been one of the highest-paid broadcasters at RTE. In 2008, she was paid €570,000 by the national broadcaster, although her pay has dropped sharply since then, like other RTE stars.

Profits

Still, her company, Montrose Services Ltd, has built up profits of €584,275. The cash balance of €201,192 at the end of October last year was up from €135,000 the year before.

The big money isn't restricted to the more-established faces in the broadcasting world.

Kathryn Thomas has become one of the most popular faces in RTE, fronting shows such as 'The Voice of Ireland'.

Her company, Aquarius Productions, is sitting on accumulated earnings of €131,406 and had cash on hand of €42,117 at the end of February 2011.

Meanwhile, the latest accounts for Pat Kenny Media Services show cash at the bank of a hefty €285,000 -- but Kenny has been outspoken about significant amounts he has lost through investments in property deals and bank shares.

A review of the accounts for Ronan O'Gara's company, Stand Off Promotions Ltd, shows it booked a loss for the year to April 30, 2011 of €1.1m, wiping out the firm's previous accumulated profits.

Irish Independent