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Celtic Tiger pair did everything on massive scale

SOLICITOR Brian O'Donnell and his psychiatrist wife Mary Patricia were a Celtic Tiger golden couple.

Unlike most big developers the husband and wife team emerged from among Dublin's well-heeled professional class.

From that base their trajectory was spectacular -- while lots of cash-rich Irish professionals dabbled in buy-to-lets and the odd retail unit during the boom, the O'Donnells went global -- and big. Everything they did was on a massive scale.

The O'Donnells were the first private individuals from anywhere in the world to buy a skyscraper in London's Canary Wharf. They did so in a 2005, with a staggering €207m deal for the European headquarters of blue chip investment bank Morgan Stanley.

A stunning 9,000 sq ft family home in Dublin jostles with the U2 boys for views of the sea in Killiney, on one of Ireland's most exclusive roads.

A second block, also in Canary Wharf, cost €185m. Buildings in the West End of London and a prestigious office block close to the White House in Washington followed.

There are no grungy bedsits among the assets now being chased by the bank -- the O'Donnells became the landlords of Sweden's tax authorities in a building that cost almost €300m.

At one stage the empire was worth as much as a €1bn.

Yesterday's UK bankruptcy move must be especially gruelling for Brian O'Donnell. He is no stranger to the law, or indeed the hushed corridors of commercial or legal power.

By the 1990s he was one of Ireland's best-known corporate lawyers -- managing partner at one of Dublin's biggest law firms, William Fry.

He went on to set up a successful corporate practice of his own.

Yesterday's bankruptcy move means that's all behind him now.

Developers and bookmakers may be able to emerge from the UK's quickie bankruptcy system and start again, but a bankrupt cannot be a solicitor.

Mr O'Donnell has complained that it was aggressive action by the bank, not massive debts, which brought down his empire, and that the business could have been salvaged with more time.

At this stage we'll never know, but the intense action in courts in Dublin and London means the empire is crashing down in the same spectacular style with which it went up.

Irish Independent