Ex-Topaz chief O’Neill secures 40% stake in Lovin Group

Irish businessman invests €500,000 in online publisher as it launches new Lovin.ie site

Irish businessman Emmet O’Neill: perhaps best known for founding Smiles Dental in 2005, which he sold for €36 million in 2014.

Irish businessman Emmet O’Neill: perhaps best known for founding Smiles Dental in 2005, which he sold for €36 million in 2014.

 

Irish businessman Emmet O’Neill has invested €500,000 in local online publisher Lovin Group, The Irish Times has learned.

This has secured a stake of just below 40 per cent for the former Topaz chief executive and will be used to support the company’s expansion both here and overseas.

Lovin Group was established in 2011 by Niall Harbison with Irish rugby star Jamie Heaslip as an investor.

It is best known for its Lovin Dublin site but has since franchised the concept to Malta and Dubai, launched recently in Manchester, and is planning the formal launch of Lovin.ie here on Wednesday.

The sites offer a mix of restaurant reviews, lifestyle tips and tourist guides. Mr Harbison said the Lovin.ie site would provide news and reviews from around the country.

“We’re trying to branch out and replicate what we have in Dublin in other cities,” he said.

The company is also expanding its workforce in Ireland and abroad, with Mr Harbison predicting it would reach 20 by the end of October. “We have a number of positions that we’re looking to fill.”

It has turnover of more than €1 million, generating revenue for branded content from a range of advertisers, including Guinness, Samsung and Visa.

Content is optimised for mobile access and delivered through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and various websites.

“The publishing world is being upended and we are seeing new business models and media platforms being created,” Mr Harbison said. “That provides enormous opportunities for us.

“The key is to make sure our content continues to resonate with readers and is seen as relevant to their lives and interests. Happily, about four million readers each month confirm that we are doing that.”

Mr O’Neill, who is a nephew of Denis O’Brien, stepped down as Topaz CEO in February following the sale of the company to Canadian group Couche-Tard. He is perhaps best known for founding Smiles Dental in 2005, which he sold for €36 million in 2014.