Businessman Hugh O'Regan dies


The death has occurred of publican and hotelier Hugh O’Regan, one of the most prominent businessmen of the Celtic Tiger era. He was 49 years old.

Mr O’Regan changed the face of the Dublin pub scene, building up one of the country’s biggest chain of bars. The Thomas Read Group was behind many of the most fashionable so-called “super-pubs” or “café bars” in the city, including Pravda, The Bailey, Searson’s, the Budda Bar in Blanchardstown and the 40 Foot in Dun Laoghaire. The group also ran the chain of bars at Dublin Airport.

The pubs prospered mirroring the rise of the economy and the vast consumer spending that accompanied it.

He started the chain from one pub, The Temple Bar in Dublin city centre, with his brother Declan and cash of €10,000, building it into a business, including the Morrison Hotel on the quays in Dublin, that employed 900 people at its peak.

Mr O’Regan sold the pub chain in 2003 in a deal that landed himself and his partners in the business close to €35 million.

He subsequently turned his attention to the refurbishment of the former Hibernian United Services Club on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin city and the redevelopment of Kilternan Golf and Country Club in south Co Dublin which he bought for €12.7 million in 2001.

He was on the verge of drawing down the last tranche of funding for the almost-complete Kilternan project when the banking crisis struck in 2008, scuppering his plans to turn the hotel and surrounding 330 acres into a leisure and learning campus. His lenders, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, later called in their loans.

Anglo subsequently pursued Mr O’Regan through the courts to recover its debts. He owed about €80 million to Anglo and a further €172 million to Irish Nationwide, mostly on the Kilternan project.

Receivers were appointed to the Morrison Hotel, the St Stephen’s Green club and the Kilternan project in 2009 and the High Court ordered him to repay €37 million to Anglo over personal guarantees he had given on corporate debts. The Morrison Hotel and the St Stephen’s Green property were sold earlier this year.

Mr O’Regan died unexpectedly yesterday. He is survived by his wife Adrienne, four sons and his brothers Declan and Paul.