When billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien paid over ?30 million for a family home on Europe's most expensive residential road in Dublin 4, it was not as if he was in dire need of a dwelling house. He and his companies already own four other prestigious houses within a stone's throw of the mansion that stands on two-thirds of an acre and comes complete with a swimming pool.
This latest purchase of Ireland's second most expensive private address brings the combined value of Ballsbridge houses owned by O'Brien and related companies to a conservatively estimated ?60 million, not including his commercial property acquisitions.
The growing residential property portfolio makes O'Brien a serious corporate landlord on the leafy roads of Dublin 4, Ireland's most prestigious postal code. Since the ?58 million sale last year of Walford, situated opposite his latest acquisition, Belmont, Shrewsbury Road has acquired a reputation as Europe's priciest address. Among its residents are several fabulously wealthy property developers such as Sean Dunne, Paddy Kelly, Bernard McNamara and Des McEvaddy. Lawyer and AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson also lives on the road, as do Ireland's richest citizen, Dermot Desmond, and the investment guru, Derek Quinlan.
It was reported that Belmont fetched ?35 million but sources connected to Denis O'Brien caution that the purchase price was actually less than that, though they agree it did exceed ?30 million. Stamp duty on the purchase, to which the non-tax resident O'Brien is subject, is calculated at around ?900,000.
Less than a mile away, on a road made famous by Patrick Kavanagh, the first heavyweight trophy house Denis O'Brien bought after selling Esat Telecom to British Telecom for ?2.4 billion assumed symbolic dimensions for the chattering class when Prime Time reported that the house was devoid of a fitted kitchen. The four-storey, seven-bedroom detached house at No 6 Raglan Road was officially treated by the Revenue Commissioners as Denis O'Brien's residence for tax assessment purposes and they decided that the absence of a kitchen meant that the Portugal-domiciled businessman did not use it as his abode. He was, therefore, certified as non-tax resident. In fact, a source close to O'Brien confirms that he has never lived at that address.
O'Brien bought No 6 Raglan Road, a magnificent period house on the corner of Elgin Road, from restaurateur and property investor Peter White for the equivalent of ?9 million in 1999. Though a neighbouring house "in need of renovation" recently fetched ?4.1 million at auction, No 6, three times bigger and occupying a corner site, is reckoned to be worth at least ?15 million, with the sky the limit. Big landmark redbricks can virtually name their price in Ballsbridge and an extensive refurbishment of No 6 was carried out after O'Brien bought it.
One road away from Raglan, two more houses owned by O'Brien and his companies are producing a combined rental income of about ?180,000-a-year. Together, their market sale value is put at over ?12 million.
No 54 Wellington Road, one of Dublin's most beautifully proportioned roads and boasting various millionaires and embassies among its denizens, is owned by Partenay Limited, a private company incorporated in March 1999 and with a registered address at 1 Grand Canal Quay in Dublin 2. According to company documents, Partenay took out a Bank of Ireland charge on 54 Wellington Road in June 2001.
According to the entry for No 54 in Thom's Directory, that property comprises "vacant offices". However, it has been let as a family residence for the past 18 months. A house adjoining this period, terraced property, on the east side of Wellington Road, is currently on the market to let at a quoted rental of ?6,000-per-month.
Partenay Limited also owns 6 Raglan Road and registered a charge on the property created in September 2002 with Ulster Bank.
Denis O'Brien is not listed as a director of Partenay Limited. The directors are Ann Foley, a Dublin business consultant, Sandra Ruttle, an accountant and director of DIGI TV Limited and Digicable Limited, and David Sykes, a stockbroker with various company directorships including Doncaster Rovers Football Club. The purchase of Doncaster Rovers by Denis O'Brien is the subject of the Moriarty Tribunal's investigation of the Fine Gael TD Michael Lowry. Denis O'Brien applied unsuccessfully to the High Court for an order prohibiting the tribunal to pursue that line of inquiry.
The fourth director of Partenay is Thanehurst Limited, a company registered in Douglas, Isle of Man and which is controlled by Denis O'Brien. According to the abridged financial statement for Partenay Limited to the end of December 2004, the company owned properties worth ?25.5 million, an increase of ?1.9 million from the previous year. Bank loans and overdrafts came to ?20 million.
In the 2004 financial statements for Partenay, it was noted that "sums were advanced by Mr Denis O'Brien to the company and at 31 December 2004 the total indebtedness amounted to ?2,977,718 (31 December 2003 - ?4,081,475)". It added that O'Brien held the convertible loan stock amounting to ?3.9 million. Wages and salaries of ?30,000 were re-charged to the company