Business career spanned dancehalls, newspapers and pet food

It is said after a fire destroyed a bacon factory he had the idea to set up a pet food business

An imaghe from 1986 of Albert Reynolds and his son Philip at the C&D Pet Food factory in Edgeworthstown Co Longford. Photograph: Collins

An imaghe from 1986 of Albert Reynolds and his son Philip at the C&D Pet Food factory in Edgeworthstown Co Longford. Photograph: Collins

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 15:54

Albert Reynolds was a successful businessman as well as being a politician who rose to the highest level in Irish public life.

His business career started in the midlands where he was a successful dance hall operator during a boom in that sector, a line of business that involved long and very late hours.

It was while working for CIE in Longford that Reynolds decided there was a need for purpose-built dancehalls and, along with his brother, Jim, built the Cloudland in Roosky, Co Roscommon. It had a capacity for 2,000 people and a transformational effect on the dancehall era.

As the showband scheme took off in the early 1960s, so too did the demand for such halls, and Reynolds and his brother developed a chain of 14 ballrooms across the country.

In the mid-sixties he sold his share of the business to his brother and became involved in a range of new business ventures, including a bacon factory in Dublin, an indoor heated swimming pool in Longford, the Longford News newspaper, a share in a cinema and a hire-purchase car company.

It is said that, after a fire destroyed the bacon factory and he saw that the meat that survived was to be sold for pet food to the UK, that he had the idea of setting up his own pet food business.

C&D Foods, set up in 1969 and based in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, became a very successful pet food business and one of the largest operators in the sector in Ireland and the UK. In time it operated as a supplier to all of the major retail multiples.

Reynolds’ association with the business while also pursuing a successful political career was not without its controversies. In 1994 it emerged that a wealthy Saudi businessman, Khalid Sabih Masri, had invested £1.1 million in C&D Foods in 1992 as part of a citizenship application under the so-called passports for sale scheme.

In 1990 Reynolds’ son, Philip, took over ownership and control of the business, with Albert junior also having a shareholding. The business continued to prosper but in 2006, by which time it had annual sales of approximately €100 million, a fire destroyed much of the Longford plant and led to many staff losing their jobs.

In 2008, the meat processor Larry Goodman, who along with Reynolds had been a key figure in the controversial Beef Tribunal in the early 1990s, bought a fifty per cent of C&D Foods for an undisclosed sum, with Philip Reynolds reducing his stake to 50 per cent and Albert Reynolds junior selling his 10 per cent shareholding.

The group is now one of the largest private label petfood producers in Europe, supplying products to most of the major retail chains.

Orla Reynolds, daughter of the late Albert Reynolds brother, Jim, is the owner of the Longford Arms Hotel, in Longford, which was formerly owned by her father.

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