Sunday 19 November 2017

Mansfield happy to hand over his empire to drink-drive accused son

Multimillionaire backs Sean FitzPatrick and says he has never reprimanded his sons for bad behaviour, writes Niamh Horan

Self-made riches: Jim
Mansfield has
made a defence of his son
Jimmy Jnr
Self-made riches: Jim Mansfield has made a defence of his son Jimmy Jnr
Jimmy Jnr pictured with his then-beau, the late model Katy French

Self-made multimillionaire Jim Mansfield has come out in staunch defence of his son Jimmy Jnr, after he was unable to attend a drink-drive hearing.

The Citywest tycoon said he would not be reprimanding his son for his actions.

And he described how he is 100 per cent confident about eventually leaving his empire in his son's hands, along with his other two sons Tony and PJ Mansfield.

Speaking about 42-year-old Jim Jnr, who was found drunk at the wheel of his Porsche sportscar last year and received a second drink-drive charge in the space of a fortnight, he said: "Jimmy would be like myself; drink wouldn't be something that would interest him a lot. But you know he had wine and he went out and he was over the limit and of course he got done. He is appealing the case, whether he is right or wrong I don't know.

"The other time it happened, he was in town one night but he had only a couple of glasses of wine that night; I know that."

Asked if he reprimanded his second eldest son, who is in line to take over his multimillion-euro empire, he said: "I never said one word to him about it. It would be different if he was drunk every night of the week but that wouldn't be the case.

"I wouldn't give him any word of advice. I never did it in my life and I'm not going to start now. I never chastised any of them about anything they've done.

"They have never done anything to warrant it or make me worried about them. They were never wild, they were always wheeling and dealing and making a few quid. You can't abuse someone that's working hard," he said.

Jim Jnr, who hit the headlines in 2007 after it was revealed that he had dated tragic model Katy French, failed to show up at court for a drink-drive hearing last Monday.

The property tycoon's legal team revealed he was not able to attend Dublin District Court due to a "back injury".

The socialite was stopped by gardai on October 2 while driving down Pembroke Road, the millionaire's row in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

But asked if he felt confident to one day leave his empire in the hands of his three sons Tony, Jimmy Jnr and PJ Mansfield, the Citywest boss said: "There's my wife and three sons. I trust them with everything.

"I am in a very unusual state at the moment that if I have anything to leave, I can leave it to any one of them and I would be happy going knowing that that one person would make sure the other three are well looked after.

"That's unusual because most families would be worried that they can't let a child be involved in a will but I trust all of them completely. I wouldn't have any worries. I think the whole thing will be divided up fairly."

Speaking fondly of his three sons who help him run his business, he said: "The greatest thing about all of them is that every one of them is more than capable of running every part of the business. Tony is running the machinery; jimmy is running the hotel; PJ can buy the stuff for the building site, and they can all swap roles.

"They can do anything that is going to make money for the business. And that's what it's all about. They're all very capable. I'm 100 per cent confident that if anything happens to me in the morning they will be able to successfully carry the business on."

But he dismissed any prospect of him retiring over the next few years saying: "I wouldn't be able to stay at home. I never plan to give it up. When I go into the box -- that's when I'll retire."

Speaking at his office at Citywest hotel in Co Kildare, the wealthy property developer also hit back at reports that his empire is in trouble saying -- although his hotel business is down 18 per cent -- he has a strong long-term plan in place.

It includes a new €30m convention centre at Citywest and converting his unused golf and shopping village into an education campus, with the first 750 pre-university students from Saudi Arabia expected in April.

The school will be worth €260m to the economy over a six-year period and will create more than 300 jobs.

"My business isn't in any trouble," he said. "It's rubbish. Absolute nonsense. The company is down 18 per cent but that's nothing for the size of it. And nobody is trying to wrap up the company," he said, referring to reports that Peninsula Business Services Limited had brought a High Court petition to wind up HSS Developments, the company that runs the four-star Citywest Hotel, over alleged unpaid debts.

"We have the conference centre in place and this school in place which will vastly improve our turnover."

Mr Mansfield, who dropped down Ireland's rich list in 2009 with his wealth reportedly dropping from €193m to €174m in a year, said he does not know exactly how much of a dent the recession has made in his wealth: "Whether you're worth 10 pounds or 10 million pounds, how do they know? I certainly don't know and I'm involved in it.

"You don't know what your properties are worth today, you don't know what your properties are worth last year you don't know what it's worth 10 years ago, it's all paper until you go to sell them."

But the Citywest tycoon stressed that money was never a motivator or a source of stress in his life.

"I surely would never have a sleepless night over money. Money means nothing to me. I'm happy once I have the house to go home to and I have a bit to eat.

"I get good satisfaction out of devising a way of stopping the downturn in the hotel business, getting it up to where it should be and hopefully well above.

"The only thing that worries me is that we have a lot of good people in jobs and you would hate to see yourself having to let them go."

Asked if he would take time to enjoy the wealth he has built up over the years, by, say, travelling the world or indulging in his riches, he said: "I have no interest in that at all. I have a good television and I can see most countries from my couch watching the television.

"I would go away the very odd time but I would be annoyed and bored after two days and want to come back," he said.

He also defended disgraced banker Sean Fitzpatrick describing how the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank put his faith in him starting out when no one else would.

The wealthy property developer spoke of how he approached Mr Fitzpatrick in the Eighties when he set out to build his hugely successful multimillion-euro empire.

"It was 1983 when I first met Seanie Fitz and got loans from him. It was when I was building the Mill shopping centre. I got a few quid from him when I probably wouldn't have gotten it anywhere else," he said.

"I found him very good. I remember he asked me what I knew about the building industry and I told him I knew nothing about it.

"But I told him what I wanted to build and that I would make back the money and he gave me the money," he added.

"That's the sort of thing you need to get the country going again. He saw how easy it was to get money as well. That's what got people going. But then it went a bit too far and people got a bit too greedy."

Mr Fitzpatrick resigned after more than three decades with Anglo Irish Bank after saying he didn't fully disclose €87m in loans from the bank.

As he announced the launch of his new education campus, the Citywest businessman also called on the government to put a package in place that will help thousands of struggling home-owners to meet their crippling mortgage debts.

"An arrangement needs to be made through the banks and government for mortgage holders who are in trouble. It's just so sad to see people losing their homes when they were encouraged by the banks and brokers to go in and buy those houses.

"I think some arrangement needs to be made to look after the average homeowner."

Sunday Independent

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