End of road for Bill Cullen’s lucrative Renault tie-up
BILL CULLEN'S lucrative association with car manufacturer Renault has ended after the last of his garages lost the right to sell the cars.
The former star of reality television show 'The Apprentice' made his fortune as Ireland's main Renault dealer over the past 24 years.
However, from the end of this month, he will lose his exclusive rights to sell Renault-brand cars and parts from his massive Dublin car showrooms at Airside in Swords and Liffey Valley.
The motor industry veteran was forced to close down his dealerships in Ennis and Galway earlier this summer, with the loss of 29 jobs.
However, Mr Cullen last night insisted it was not the end for his car-selling business.
"I'm pleased to announce that my dealerships are still firmly in the motor business, in my 56th year of giving the Irish motorist the best sales and service experience in the industry," he said.
Mr Cullen (70) has been back on the sales room floor this year, helping to shift cars in a tough market that has seen the sale of new cars slump.
At one stage, Mr Cullen presided over a national car sales and distribution business, but has been forced to downsize as the financial crisis swept through the sector.
The 'Penny Apples' author held exclusive rights to import Renault cars into Ireland from 1986 until 2007 when the French company took back control of the distribution end of the business.
That still left him with a chain of four Renault garages until this summer when his company was forced to close the dealerships in Ennis and Galway, reducing the chain to two.
Citygate Motors on the Tuam Road in Galway, and Citygate Motors on the Galway Road in Ennis, Co Clare, closed their doors last month.
There are 60 staff members employed in the Dublin operations.
A spokesman for Mr Cullen said last night that the agreement with Renault had been terminated by "mutual agreement".
Renault was looking for new garages to carry the brand, while Mr Cullen was on the trail of new brands to sign up for his garages, he said.
Earlier this month, Mr Cullen's main company, known as the Glencullen Group, told staff it was no longer going to pay into the company's defined benefits pension scheme.
Company accounts show that Glencullen suffered a loss of €1.4m in 2010, a big improvement on the previous year when pre-tax losses hit €10.4m.
A luxury hotel in Kerry owned by Mr Cullen and partner Jackie Lavin is also being hit with losses.
The glamorous couple have pumped almost €10m into their five-star Muckross Park Hotel to support the loss-making business, according to company accounts.
The entrepreneur has been involved with 'The Apprentice' for four series, but TV3 announced earlier this year that it was axing the show.