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Monday 11 December 2017

No shortage of green when high flyers joined exclusive golf club

FORE: Carton House owner Lee Mallaghan with golfer Colin Montgomerie, who designed one of the courses on the estate. Photo: PA
FORE: Carton House owner Lee Mallaghan with golfer Colin Montgomerie, who designed one of the courses on the estate. Photo: PA


DEVELOPERS, bankers, politicians, PR men, high-flying 'It' boys (since fallen), stockbrokers and accountants: now where else would you find them all together other than on the golf course?

Well, in the case of the exclusive Carton House Golf Club in Kildare, you can also find them, name by name, on its Register of Members, a copy of which has just been lodged with the Companies Office as part of its annual returns.

More interestingly, on closer inspection of Carton House's membership, you can even find out just how much they paid to gain entry to its well-heeled ranks.

Take the case of Menolly Homes chief Seamus Ross's son, Seamus Jr. According to Carton House's latest returns, Mr Ross purchased his three shares in the golf club in 2001, paying out a cool €95,230.35 for the privilege.

The Menolly empire heir apparent isn't the only property titan on the books of the club, which was developed on the Mallaghan family's estate through the backing of Redquartz chief Paddy Kelly and his developer partners Brian McCormack and Norbert O'Reilly.

Also teeing off at Carton House are Glenkerrin Homes boss Ray Grehan and his brother Danny, each of whom paid €15,236.85 for their memberships. Outside of the Carton clubhouse, Grehan is best known for his firm's €171m acquisition of the former UCD Veterinary College site in Ballsbridge in 2005. With the college's footprint covering a mere 2.05 acres, Grehan's purchase represented an eye-watering €84m per acre.

GEM Construction chiefs Martin Healy and Brian Loughran joined up to Carton House at the tail end of the property boom, with their shares acquired for the more substantial sum of €40,000 apiece in January 2008.

With the taxpayer set to inject an additional €13.3bn into AIB on top of the €7.2bn it has already pumped into the ailing bank, the news that its (profitable) Capital Markets division paid out €37,500 for membership at Carton House in 2005 will merely serve to add insult to the public's already injured feelings.

Not that AIB are the only bankers teeing off at the Maynooth club. Further examination of the membership list shows that the Irish Bankers' Federation paid out €35,000 in 2002 to join up.

Among the other notable 2002 signees were Riverdeep founder and former billionaire Barry O'Callaghan. Mr O'Callaghan paid €25,394 for his membership. Other leading figures with memberships at Carton House are former supermarket supremo turned gym chain giant, Ben Dunne, who put down the not-insignificant sum of €70,000 for two shares in the club in 2005; Tullow Oil's Aidan Heavey who paid €25,394.76 for membership in 2001; and KPMG managing partner Terence O'Rourke, who paid €31,743.45 for membership in the same year.

Other well-known names on Carton House's books are PR guru Michael Parker (paid €25,394.76 in 2001); estate agent Arthur French (paid €19,046.07 in 2001); as well as two of Dublin's leading publicans, Patrick Coman of Comans' of Rathgar (paid €37,500 in 2004); and Frank Towey of the famous Foxhunter pub in Lucan (paid €25,394.76 in 2001).

Among the club's honorary members are former EU commissioner and finance minister Charlie McCreevy and his wife, Noeleen.

Careful scrutiny of the members' list also throws up what may well be the most astute financial decision made by one half of the so-called 'Bang Twins', Simon and Christian Stokes. According to Carton's annual returns, having purchased his membership for €25,394.76 in 2001, Simon Stokes sold it for €30,000 in 2007, making a profit of €4,005.24 in the process.

Sadly, the club's management has struggled to pay down its own debts, which according to the latest accounts for Carton House Golf Club plc now amount to millions of euro.

Indeed, at the end of 2008 the club was owed just over €20m (€20,011,238) by its parent firm, Chockablock Ltd.

Commenting on the chances of recovering that money, an independent auditor's report submitted for the consideration of Carton House Golf Club members said the "outcome could not be assessed with certainty". While pointing to the "material uncertainties" surrounding the prospects of recovering the money owed, the auditor noted that the directors of the club were in discussions with their financiers and bankers in regard to retaining the "required financial support".

The latest available accounts for Chockablock Ltd meanwhile stated the Carton House Golf Club was not profitable. The accounts, which cover the year up to December 31, 2007, revealed that shareholders' funds were then €12.2m in deficit.

Sunday Independent

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