BusinessAny Other Business

State earmarks offices in docklands should it win bid to host EU Anti-Money Laundering Association

Plus Ibec’s podcast deal, new roles for Altada’s co-founders, Collison’s Abbeyleix charity event, Nama’s land deal delay, Irish Gold and Silver Bullion Ltd in court, and Digicel’s sports channel in the Caribbean

The Government has earmarked Coopers Cross, a six-acre campus in Dublin’s docklands, as the offices for the new EU Anti-Money Laundering Association (AMLA) if its bid is successful. Dublin is competing against Brussels, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Riga, Vilnius and Vienna to host the new agency.

Each of the applicants had to say where AMLA would be based, and the Irish bid document nominates Coopers Cross in the north docks, jointly developed by Kennedy Wilson and Cain International. “AMLA in Dublin would be at the heart of the financial and technology district, beside the Central Bank of Ireland and our National Treasury Management Agency,” the bid says.

Each city was then asked about the “availability and types of public transport connection from the closest airport to the premises”, and here is where Dublin is at a disadvantage. While Brussels, Madrid, Paris, Rome and Vienna all say “train”, Dublin and Vilnius can only say “bus”. Riga’s answer is “tram and bus”.

The offices at Coopers Cross are divided between two buildings, the biggest of which (at 8,650sq m), “has been awarded a SmartScore Platinum rating, making it one of the smartest places to work in the world”, the Irish bid says. The annual fixed costs at the site are €5.6 million, but the Government is proposing to make €80 million available to pay for AMLA in Dublin.


As a backup premises it is offering Four Park Place in Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, which would cost almost €8 million a year, but where the tenants would include some nice neighbours or, as the bid document says, “a line-up of well-known international names such as EY, LinkedIn, Bank of America, KPMG, IDA Ireland and Allianz”.

Frankfurt is the one to beat, but a poll conducted by AML Intelligence has found Dublin is the favourite among financial professionals, with almost 25 per cent support. Madrid came second (20 per cent) with the German city in fourth place.

Ibec sponsors British political podcast

Ibec is surely the first Irish business to use a former Tory Party minister to voice over a promo. Irish listeners to The Rest Is Politics podcast on November 8th must have been startled to hear the plummy accent of presenter Rory Stewart telling them that members of Ibec “get to take part in their many, many working groups and have a voice on issues that affect your business or industry”.

Thanks to the scale and international reach of the representative group, Stewart enthused, “you get access to influential networks... credible industry research and guidance to prepare your business for upcoming regulation”.

Most importantly of all, according to Stewart, an Oxford graduate who was once private tutor to Prince William and Prince Harry, “your business will be supported by [Ibec’s] comprehensive employment law, IR and HR practice”. Then his co-host Alastair Campbell chimed in: “So if you’re a member, make sure you are getting the most out of your benefits. [If not], discover how business is better with Ibec.”

While the political podcast has a six-figure audience, Ibec tells us its paid sponsorship of that episode was for Irish listeners only.

This is just the latest instance of Campbell and Stewart tapping up our corporate sector. On a recent visit to Dublin, they appeared at a KPMG event in the Merrion Hotel, while former Labour Party spin doctor Campbell did an event for An Post. Afterwards he went swimming with its chief executive, David McRedmond, at the Forty Foot.

Later, after posting pretty pictures of Dublin on social media, Campbell quipped that “it surely cannot be long before the Irish Government decides to give me a passport for services to promotion of Irish tourism. I swim in their seas. I pose with their citizens. I photograph their scenery.” The Rest Is Advertising.

Beechinor and Parker secure new roles following Altada liquidation

Spotted at the Web Summit this week were Allan Beechinor and Niamh Parker, the husband and wife team who cofounded Altada Technology Solutions, now in liquidation. The Cork couple have clearly moved on from that disappointment. Beechinor’s ID card for the Lisbon event described him as “Chief AI strategist at EGAI”, and “currently working with Quantum computing”, while giving his location as the UK. Parker, who now styles herself Neeve, was described as “co-founder at EmergeGen” and said to be based in the United States.

“Urgency and definitely more hustle this year,” Parker tweeted from the tech gathering. “Lots of meaningful conversations and killer follow-ups.”

The liquidator of their former company is also having lots of meaningful conversations. According to The Currency, John Healy of Kirby Healy Chartered Accounts has told creditors he has questions about some €2 million worth of expenditure at Altada, including use of private jets, and a trip to Disney World in Orlando for some staff. Challenged last year as to whether Altada had spent on things it shouldn’t have, Beechinor justified the spending policy at the time by saying: “It’s a high-growth company, fast-scale; this is the trajectory we were on.”

John Collison brings Santa back to Abbeyleix estate for charity event

John Collison, the billionaire co-founder of Stripe, is having everyone around for Christmas again this year. In 2021, Collison paid about €20 million for Abbeyleix House and Farm, a 1,120-acre estate in Co Laois. He hosted a Christmas Market and Santa’s Grotto there last year, and a second instalment is being staged on December 9th from noon until 8pm.

Alice McIlroy, the organiser, tells me the ticket-only event sold out last Monday, with 2,500 paying customers now on board. All proceeds are going to charity. As befits someone keen on sustainability, Collison’s event is aiming for a small carbon footprint. “If possible, we encourage locals to walk or cycle to the venue,” organisers say. The only on-site parking is for disabled visitors, and “all other attendees should plan to take a courtesy shuttle from Abbeyleix town”.

Meanwhile any rubber-neckers coming along in the hope of having a nose around Collison’s 2,500sq m (26,910 sq ft) mansion will be disappointed. “Abbeyleix House is a private residence and will be closed to the public,” the event website says.

Nama land deal delay in Dublin docklands

The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) has sold or completed development on 97 per cent of the sites it originally acquired in Dublin’s docklands. The last scrap of land is a triangular and mainly disused site at the confluence of the Dodder and Liffey rivers in Grand Canal Dock. While Nama holds the leasehold over a portion of the 0.57 hectares, Waterways Ireland holds the freehold over all of it.

A report by the Comptroller & Auditor General earlier this year stated that a provisional agreement to sell the land had been reached between Nama and Waterways Ireland “and is awaiting approval from its sponsoring Department and the North-South Ministerial Council”. In an appearance before an Oireachtas committee in September, Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh added: “We hope [there] will be a joint sale with Waterways Ireland, but it needs North-South approval, and obviously that is an issue at present.” With Stormont suspended, there has been no plenary meeting of the North-South ministerial Council since July 2021.

A Waterways Ireland spokeswoman told us: “No decision has been made with regard to the future of the site and [we] are not in a position to comment further at this time.”

As Nama continues to wind down, however, we wonder if the “bad bank” might be dissolved before the political stalemate at Stormont is broken.

Liquidator of Irish Gold and Silver Bullion goes back to court

The High Court is to hear another instalment in the saga of Irish Gold and Silver Bullion Ltd, which its liquidator believes defrauded customers and operated as a “Ponzi scheme”. Last July the court disqualified Nicholas Wickham, the shareholder and director of the company, from holding a directorship for seven years after finding that he presents a danger to creditors.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said Wickham had not been honest with investors, and his business model involved “repeated misrepresentation” to customers about how their funds were being used.

Myles Kirby, the liquidator, had found that Wickham pooled funds which should have been spent on precious metals as investments with company money. By the time Kirby was appointed, there was no stockpile of gold and silver, and the company’s bank account had €3,900, while its deficit was €1 million. Justice O’Moore did not hear evidence about what effect the loss of their money had on investors, but noted that some lost their life savings and were now facing “real grinding hardship” because of Wickham’s behaviour.

According to High Court listings, Kirby has now launched fresh proceedings as part of his work. It’s understood the case is being brought against a British legal firm that previously represented Wickham and his companies. It’s due before the court on Monday.

SportsMax moves to Digicel’s HQ

In September 2014, Denis O’Brien’s Digicel bought SportsMax, a cable-TV channel with rights to show the Premier League and West Indies cricket. It’s only now the two businesses seem to be achieving full synergy, however, with SportsMax recently relocating to Digicel’s headquarters in downtown Kingston, and opening a new studio and production facility. Gyorgy Zsembery, group chief executive of home and entertainment at Digicel, boasted that investment in its technology puts SportsMax at the level of the world’s best. “This is on par with the likes of ESPN, Sky, and CNN,” he reckoned.

The move was accompanied by the usual corporate speak about Digicel’s core competency being mobile but wanting to become “a total entertainment provider”. Digicel’s attempts to reduce its debt from a peak of over $7 billion (€6.5 billion) in 2019 have certainly given some of us more than enough entertainment to be going on with.