Thursday 23 November 2017

Paddy McKillen: Elusive tycoon who built own fortune

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

ONE of the sons of Catholic Belfast during the Troubles and a personal friend of Bono's for years, Paddy McKillen has always fiercely guarded his privacy.

He had a comfortable upbringing thanks to the family business. The McKillens owned Ireland's first chain of tyre and exhaust stores, DC Exhausts, which sold for around €12m about 25 years ago.

He never attended college but worked in the family firm instead. At the age of 16 in 1972, he was sent to work in Dublin by his father as Belfast descended into sectarian violence.

"Belfast and Beirut," recalled McKillen (59), "those two cities were getting destroyed day by day so it was a wise thing for my old man to say you'd be better off headin' to Dublin."

Over the next 30 years, he built his own fortune, a real-estate empire stretching from London to Tokyo, the true value of which is a closely guarded secret but is thought to be "in the hundreds of millions", according to an associate.

He began in the clothing trade and over the next decade, went on to make several lucrative property deals, with a portfolio of prime assets such as shopping centres and retail properties in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick.

An elusive and highly private individual, nevertheless McKillen could not escape the public glare when he redeveloped the former hospital on Jervis Street into one of Dublin's busiest shopping centres with businessman Padraig Drayne.

He invested in a number of retail and restaurant ventures including the Wagamama in Dublin. He has invested overseas in businesses in Vietnam and owns a vineyard in France.

A dapper, trim and quiet man, McKillen and his wife Maura and their four children live in Los Angeles.

McKillen spends much of his time travelling from the Far East, the west coast of the US and Ireland.

Dragged into a fiercely fought spat with the National Asset Management Agency after the financial woes of his business partner Derek Quinlan in the London hotel war, McKillen emerged triumphant in February 2011, when he won a landmark Supreme Court Case stopping NAMA from seizing €2.1bn in loans associated with companies in which he had a shareholding.

However, that was only a battle. The real war is with the Barclay twins desperate to get their hands on the Maybourne hotel group.

Irish Independent

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