Saturday 17 March 2018

How decency was Anthony O’Reilly’s Achilles heel

Paying off your debts is a curiously old-fashioned thing to do. A little like entertaining your staff at your own home

Castlemartin from the air
Castlemartin house
The O'Reillys
Tony O'Reilly
Waterford Wedgwood AGM

Though there seems to be a healthy amount of schadenfreude around the circumstances in which Tony O'Reilly finds himself, it's fair to say that even his detractors are a little bit taken aback at how far he appears to have fallen.

Before Denis O' Brien, Tony O'Reilly was our colossus astride the world stage. He was a billionaire before such things were commonplace. As the boss of Heinz, he showed the Yanks how to do business - he even invented Kerrygold, and with it the now accepted notion that a country with grass like ours can sell food at a premium. And, of course, the sun never set on his media empire.

And even as things crumbled around him - his media empire gone, his dream of an Irish luxury brand gone, along with hundreds of millions of his own cash, and even his oil exploration seeming to run dry - no one suspected he was actually broke. And the phrase that echoed around last week, among both his friends and his enemies, was: "How did it come to this?"

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