Saturday 25 November 2017

Forget austerity, flash the Rolls and the Rolex at Smurfit bash

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The world financial markets might be in turmoil, his partner in the famous K Club Gerry Gannon might be in Nama -- but Ireland's original millionaire Michael Smurfit was last night enjoying a lavish spread for his 75th birthday.

The big question among guests arriving for the two days of celebration was what do you get a man who has everything -- chauffeur-driver cars, yachts, his own golf club and homes in Ireland, Marbella, Monaco?

The answer is the simple things in life -- like old holiday snaps.

"He is very nostalgic and loves gifts where thought is put into it so I've made him a collage of photos that captures some of the memories of our friendship," said one billionaire relaxing in the lounge of the K Club before dinner.

Billionaires, property tycoons, sporting and political figures but mostly friends and family were there for the 'party of the year' to mark the packaging tycoon's latest milestone, which he reaches today.

As the rest of the world drowned in talk of austerity, rows of chauffeur-driven Mercedes, Ferraris, Rolls Royce and Bentleys lined up outside the prestigious club house yesterday morning as the official birthday celebrations got under way with what else but a game of golf, involving many of the young Smurfits.

But Dr Smurfit, who turned the small packaging company founded by his father Jefferson into a multi-national conglomerate, went instead to the RDS for the more genteel pastime of showjumping.

As well as his many other distinctions, Dr Smurfit is Ireland's honorary consul in Monaco for life -- and there was talk that Prince Albert and his new wife might attend the birthday celebrations in Straffan, Co Kildare.

The private island in the middle of the famous golf course which hosted the Ryder Cup was later the venue for a champagne barbecue and some light entertainment before the main event last night.

In the main room of the K Club -- or Straffan House as it used to be known before Dr Smurfit bought it and turned it into a world-class course -- 150 hand-picked friends were arriving for a sit-down meal of steak and salmon prepared by top chefs at a black-tie evening.

They came from as far afield as Russia and the United States for the two-day event and many spent the day in the tea rooms speaking highly of their host.

"I've known him for 20 odd years now. And he's every bit of a gentleman now as he was in the beginning," said one.

"Let me tell you, there is a reason so many people have travelled so far to be here this weekend, it's not just for the big party," he laughed.

"It's because of the man Michael is, and he has forged some great friendships over the years."

The guest list included old friends like Dermot Desmond -- famously nick-named 'The Kaiser' by Dr Smurfit at a previous bash -- and developer Sean Mulryan from the nearby Ardenode Stud, who is a long-time friend.

Sunday Independent

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