Friday 15 December 2017

Cowen joins Topaz board in first major appointment since politics

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been appointed to the board of Topaz.

It is the first major appointment for the ex-politician since he resigned as leader of Fianna Fail and leader of the country in 2011.

Businessman Denis O'Brien will also sit at the helm of the energy group, which he took over in December when he bought its loans from the IBRC.

Mr Cowen will be a non-executive director, which means he is independent, and has no links with the company's management. Mr Cowen, who led the government for three years, has been criticised for his failure to protect Ireland from economic downturn during his time as finance minister.

The Offaly man has not worked full-time since his high-profile departure from politics, but last year set up Cowen Consulting, after taking part in an executive programme at Stanford University, California.

Topaz is Ireland's largest service station operator and convenience retailer, employing 1,700 people at 330 sites nationwide. It has an annual turnover of more than €3bn and one million transactions every month.

Mr O'Brien, the founder of the mobile phone company Digicel, and a key shareholder in the publisher of this newspaper, acquired the fuel retailer and distributor in a deal said to be worth some €300m.

Dell veteran Sean Corkery, former AIB boss Colm Doherty, INM board member Lucy Gaffney, and UCD commerce graduate Emmet O'Neill, who recently sold his company, Smiles Dental, for €36m, have also been appointed as new non-executives directors.

Topaz chief financial officer Niall Devereux will also be on the board.

"The new directors bring a unique level of expertise and knowledge, which will be invaluable in the continued growth and expansion of Topaz," said chairman John Callaghan.

Topaz group recorded an 8pc rise in revenues to more than €3.17bn in the year to the end of March last year. It also made a small operating profit of €296,000, but the interest bill on its debt mountain pushed it into the red. Losses after tax were more than €13m.

Mr Cowen became Taoiseach in May 2008 following Bertie Ahern's resignation, serving until March 2011, when he did not contest the general election. Micheal Martin replaced him has party leader, as Fine Gael's Enda Kenny stepped into his shoes as Taoiseach.

The Government this week gave the go-ahead for a banking inquiry, which could be up-and-running by the summer.

Irish Independent

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