The billionaires club: Who are Ireland's richest people?

Seventeen of the world’s billionaires are Irish citizens, according to a new report on the world’s gap between rich and poor.

Oxfam says this equates to 3.5 billionaires per 1 million residents here – the fifth-highest ratio in the world. Only Hong Kong, Cyprus, Switzerland and Singapore have more billionaires per head of population.

The USA leads the world in total number of billionaires at 607, followed by China with 324, Germany 114, India 106 and Russia 98.

The report – published to coincide with today’s start to the World Economic Forum in Davos – suggests these are Ireland’s richest individuals and families. Estimated total worth comes from the 2019 ‘Sunday Independent’ Rich List:

1. THE WESTONS

€7.1bn

Hilary and Galen Weston founded the Primark brand as part of amassing a family fortune of some €7.1bn. The Westons’ Wittington Investments sprawling retail portfolio includes Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, the Loblaw grocery chain in Canada, the high-end British chain Selfridges, and Fortnum & Mason. The Westons today divide their time between Toronto and a luxurious gated community in Florida.

2. DENIS O’BRIEN

€4.7bn

Mr O’Brien made his first fortune from Esat Telecom which he built up in the 1990s and sold to British Telecom Group in 2000 for €2.4bn. He brought his telecoms expertise to the Caribbean with Digicel, which today operates in more than 30 countries across Asia, Oceania and Central America. Another of his early successes was winning a new radio licence for Dublin, 98FM, which he continues to own through Communicorp, also home to Today FM and Newstalk.

He took a loss exceeding €450m last year when he offloaded his majority holding in Independent News & Media. He also has investments in property, healthcare and hospitality, including the Beacon Hospital in Dublin and the PGA Catalunya and Quinta do Lago resorts on the Iberian peninsula. He owns a superyacht named Nero and a luxury ski chalet in the French Alps called Chalet Chocolat Chaud (Chalet Hot Chocolate).

3. JOHN DORRANCE

€2.44bn

John Dorrance III’s chemist grandfather invented Campbell’s formula for condensed soup a century ago. It has generated massive wealth for his heirs, and John ‘Ippy’ Dorrance III cashed in his 10.5pc stake in Campbell’s Soup in the 1990s. Around the same time, he moved to Ireland with his Finnish-born wife. He was granted a passport after he invested $1.5m in a tree-planting project and is believed to have a home in Dartry in Dublin 6.

4. DERMOT DESMOND

€2.1bn

Long considered one of Ireland’s greatest dealmakers, Mr Desmond today is currently the largest shareholder at troubled travel software firm Datalex. The Cork-born businessman started out in banking and made his first fortune in 1994 after selling the stockbroking firm he founded, NCB, for €49m. His wide-ranging investments since have included stakes in Arctic diamonds, Celtic FC and Independent News & Media. Last year he sold his 15pc stake in INM for €22m, roughly breaking even in the process. He is credited with developing Dublin’s now booming IFSC in the 1980s. His most lucrative deal was the 2006 sale of London City Airport for €1bn, which his investment group bought for just €30m in 1995. He also made €120m from his original €475,000 investment in Denis O’Brien’s Esat.

5. THE COLLISON BROTHERS

€1.75bn

If you bought anything online recently, the odds are strong that the payment was processed by Stripe, the firm founded in 2010 by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison. They sold their first company, Shuppa, while they were still teens. Both brothers dropped out of college early – at MIT and Harvard respectively – to develop the online payments technology that would make their fortunes. Stripe’s software allowed businesses to connect websites and apps instantly with credit card and banking systems.

The idea won the seal of approval from other Silicon Valley startups and attracted initial backing from Tesla founder Elon Musk and PayPal’s Peter Thiel. Businesses including Lyft, Facebook and thousands more have turned Stripe into the financial backbone of their operations. Despite their fantastic wealth, the brothers share a modest apartment in San Francisco. Their biggest luxury is a private plane.

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