Fortunes of Ireland’s wealthiest 250 equals third of GDP

Latest Sunday Times rich list shows their combined fortunes up 12% last year

U2 singer Bono speaking at the Convention Centre in Dublin in March. The band fell five places in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, as the wealth of their former manager is now listed separately. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

U2 singer Bono speaking at the Convention Centre in Dublin in March. The band fell five places in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, as the wealth of their former manager is now listed separately. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Sun, May 18, 2014, 14:38

The rich are getting richer, according to the latest study of Ireland’s wealthiest people by the Sunday Times.

The fortunes of Ireland’s 250 wealthiest people rose 12 per cent to €57 billion over the past year. Their combined wealth is now equivalent to 35 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

It is a finding that will be of no surprise to devotees of French economist of the moment Thomas Piketty, who argues in his new bestselling book Capital in the 21st Century that the return on capital will outpace economic growth in developed countries, widening the gap between rich and poor.

A similar trend has emerged in the British list, where the wealth of the top 1,000 richest people has surged 15.4 per cent to £449 billion, which is also equivalent to about a third of the gross domestic product of the UK.

The total also exceeds the £413 billion recorded by the top 1,000 before the financial crash, confirming that the wealthiest people have shrugged off the impact of the Great Recession on their income and are now wealthier than ever before.

To get on this year’s Sunday Times list of the 250 richest in Ireland, an individual or family must have a fortune of at least €46 million - an entry level that is up a cool €4 million on last year’s list.

Dubliner Hilary Weston (71) and the Weston family top the Irish list for the sixth year with an estimated wealth of almost €8.8 billion, up €783 million on last year thanks to the performance of their food and clothing interests, which include Brown Thomas and the Primark/Penneys chain.

Telecoms businessman Denis O’Brien retains second place with estimated wealth of €4.64 billion, while Campbell Soup heir John Dorrance, who moved to Ireland in 1994 for tax reasons, is third with an estimated fortune of almost €2 billion.

The top 10 is rounded out by financier Dermot Desmond; electrical heater magnate Martin Naughton; Lady Ballyedmond (the widow of Norbrook Laboratories’ Edward Haughey) and family; Paul Coulson and family; Pearse Lyons and family; the Earl of Iveagh and the Guinness family; and David McMurtry, the Irish founder of engineering company Renishaw.

Rock band U2 fell five places in the list from 14 to 19 as a result of former manager Paul McGuinness selling his interest in the band’s management company, Principle. The band now has an estimated combined wealth of €516 million, while the wealth of Mr McGuinness is listed separately as €125 million.

The Young Rich List, which comprises people aged 30 or younger, is topped by the Collison brothers, Patrick (25) and John (23), the founders of online payments company Stripe, who have estimated joint wealth of €467 million.

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