Ireland’s Rich List 2021: Oh for an Irish Elon Musk, whom we could envy and deride equally

The list includes concrete moguls, widget sellers, dotcom zillionaires and a bookmaker

Richard Curran: a hearty backslap in human form

Richard Curran: a hearty backslap in human form

 

“Rich Lists” conjure images of diamond-topped canes, Xanadu-style private estates and white-haired Uncle Moneybags from the Monopoly board game. So there is inevitable disappointment when the focus switches to Ireland’s megabucks elite and it turns out they’ve all made their fortunes in concrete or from software facilitating the import and export of widgets.

Oh for a Richard Branson or Elon Musk, whom we could envy and deride in equal quantities.

There are plenty of concrete moguls and widget wholesalers on Ireland’s Rich List 2021 (RTÉ One, Monday 9.35 pm). This breezy and agreeably gossipy film also finds space for a few dotcom zillionaires, a bookmaker and a call centre empire born above a pub in Cork. 

But Ireland’s Rich List isn’t quite a 24-carat affair. Rather than the logical approach of listing Ireland’s wealthiest in reverse order entrants are ranked by how much their wealth grew in 2020. So while processed meat mogul Larry Goodman is worth €32 billion, he ends up behind Four Star Pizza magnate Michael Holland with his piffling €98 million. 

The leaderboard is further divided by region – Dublin / Leinster, followed by Munster (Connacht and Ulster feature in part two next week). And there are run-downs of those whose net worth plunged during Covid (surprise surprise, it wasn’t a good year for nightclubs or holiday resorts). 

For that reason, Ireland’s Rich List ends up a bit of a gilded hodgepodge. And it is padded out slightly with profiles of young companies hoping to one day crash billionaire’s row. These include a Wicklow auto firm that converts Ferraris into electric vehicles and – Great Scott! – is planning the first car production line in Ireland since the short lived glory days of the DeLorean. 

Irish business people tend to be loquacious. You feel you’re going for a pint with them even when you’re just exchanging pleasantries over conference-room coffee.That same avuncularity emanates from presenter Curran, who comes across as a hearty backslap in human form.

He is assisted by contributors including The Irish Times’s Mark Paul, whose job is to dispense snappy bromides in layperson’s terms. As for the lists themselves, well, you will be speechless to discover men in late middle age dominate. Sprinkled through are a smattering of female entrepreneurs, such as Linda Kiely, who set up call centre business VoxPro with her husband.  

“Number one” on the Leinster list, meanwhile, are Michael and Jacqueline Kelly with their insurance software start-up Fineos. 

They are, however, blown out of the water by Munster’s top finishers, Patrick and John Collison of online payments Goliath Stripe, chugging towards a net worth of €10 billion each.

One contributor characterises their success as “revenge of the nerds”. Which makes sense. Dweebs have already conquered music, cinema and literature. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised they’re storming the Irish boardroom as well. The geeks have truly inherited the earth. 

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