Wednesday 13 November 2019

Widow (91) leaves estate worth €77m...but she never made a will

'According to financial experts, it will also provide a huge windfall for the tax authorities because she made no provision for her estate'
'According to financial experts, it will also provide a huge windfall for the tax authorities because she made no provision for her estate'
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

One of Ireland's richest women has left an estate worth more than €77m - but didn't bother to make a will before she died.

Dublin widow Patricia Martin, who lived unobtrusively in the south county suburb of Mount Merrion, died intestate last year at the age of 91. She had no children and her two nieces, who live nearby, have now taken out ''Letters of Administration'' so that her vast estate can be divided among her next of kin.

According to financial experts, it will also provide a huge windfall for the tax authorities because she made no provision for her estate.

Mrs Martin was the widow of the late George Martin, an interior designer whose business George Peter operated from Harcourt Street in Dublin. He was also a director and investor in gold exploration company Glencar Resources.

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But he made his millions as one of the original investors in the Elan Corporation, an Irish-based pharmaceutical company which became one of the biggest drug companies in the world.

The couple, who lived anonymously in the housing estate, Cherrygarth, between Kilmacud and Mount Merrion, held more than 1.5m shares in the pharmaceutical company once based in Athlone and these passed into the sole ownership of Mrs Martin following the death of her husband in 1993 when he was in his mid-60s.

Back in March 2002, after an unfavourable article in the Wall Street Journal, shares in Elan fell from $75 to $15 when the financial journal criticised the company. It wiped billions off the value of the company and Mrs Martin saw her wealth at the time fall by €90m almost overnight.

Following a story in the Sunday Independent, Mrs Martin rang the newspaper to complain, saying she was more concerned about the publicity identifying her, than she was about the financial losses involved.

Elan Corporation was founded in the kitchen of his home in 1969 by American businessman Don Panoz. George Martin and his wife Patricia, along with Dublin solicitor Brendan Boushel, were among the original investors.

The company's big idea was developing a nicotine patch and exploiting the huge market for generic drugs. Its success led to undreamed of ''paper'' wealth for the founding shareholders.

But the couple never changed their modest middle-class lifestyle. George Martin was a keen golfer at Woodbrook near Bray, Co Wicklow. After playing a round and having a drink in the bar, he would go to the public phone, ring three times and put down the receiver without having to put money into the payphone. It was a signal that he was about to drive home and his wife could begin to prepare dinner.

By the time its founder Don Panoz died in New York in September, 2018, Elan had been sold to US drugmaker Perrigo for €7.7bn ($8.6bn), renewing Patricia Martin's vast paper fortune.

According to documents lodged in the probate office last week, Patricia Martin of Cherrygarth, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, who died on November 14, 2018, left an estate valued at €77,835,662.

Sunday Independent

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