'Billionaire investor' is sweet-shop owner

 

A “BILLIONAIRE” businessman linked with a string of high-profile potential investments has been identified as a sweet-shop owner based in rural Co Kilkenny.

Stuart Pearson (25), a native of Co Wicklow, lives in a rented house in the village of Goresbridge and operates the shop at a rented premises in the nearby town of Graiguenamanagh.

Over the past year, there have been claims in national and regional media that he was the head of a major investment company which sought to acquire a 30 per cent stake in Aer Lingus; was approached by SR Technics to invest “€25 million” in the troubled avionics company; and had offered “€450 million” to acquire failed Northern Ireland property company Taggart Holdings.

His profile on the Wikipedia internet site refers to the Arklow-born businessman as having “interests in property development, retail, insurance [and] horse breeding”, adding his “personal wealth is valued at over €3 billion”. The entry claimed Mr Pearson had inherited substantial wealth. It also said he collected vintage Jaguar cars and used a helicopter for work.

Yesterday at his shop in Graiguenamanagh, which sells sweets, newspapers, Mass cards and some groceries, a female employee said that Mr Pearson was “not here”, had not been seen for a few days and was with his wife who was “sick”.

But at the rented pebble-dashed house in Goresbridge, his wife told The Irish Timesshe had “separated a while ago” from her husband, was unaware of his current whereabouts and knew nothing about his business deals. She accepted, however, that an elderly and much-repaired Northern Ireland-registered Jaguar Sovereign car parked outside belonged to her husband.

The couple and their two daughters have been living in the modest house for a year. In Goresbridge yesterday, people said they were surprised and sceptical about media reports of Mr Pearson’s wealth.

At a take-away restaurant on Barrack Street, Chrissie Travers said Mr Pearson was a “fierce nice chap” but “if someone told me he was a billionaire, I’d drop dead or give him an extra bag of chips”.

She said he often called in “on the way home from work” and ordered the “quarter-pounder meal deal” – which at €6.70 includes “a can” – but sometimes “he goes for the chicken curry” (at €5.80).

Ms Travers said she had “never heard a helicopter taking off”.

Repeated efforts to contact Mr Pearson proved unsuccessful.