2009 Rich List Details Top Irish Earners

The Sunday Times newspaper has published its popular annual Rich List, detailing the top British and Irish earners and how much they are really worth. The two most notable things about the 2009 list are the losses being suffered by the Irish super-rich and what it could mean for the state of philanthropy in Ireland.

As the Times reports, the leading 30 philanthropists among Britain’s richest 1,000 people have pledged or given away almost £2.38 billion in the past year, nearly double last year’s figure of £1.21 billion, and more than five times the amount in 2006. To make the top 30, an individual had to give to charity at least 3% of their residual worth, up from last year’s record figure of 1.36%.

Losses for Irish Super-Rich

The 2009 Sunday Times Rich List, the only measurement of Irish individuals’ wealth, calculates that the richest 250 people in Ireland are worth a combined €40.23 billion, down 25% since last year, making it the sharpest 12-month decline in the history of the survey.

The biggest loss for an Irish person in the Rich List is Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the outgoing chief executive of Independent News & Media. His business interests have taken a battering, with the share price of his media group collapsing, and his holding in Waterford Wedgwood wiped out after the luxury-goods manufacturer’s demise.

The tumble in the fortunes of the Irish super-rich seem to include all sectors and types of business, with the business magnate, Sean Quinn, has seen a whopping €1.5 billion reduction in his fortune in the last year alone. This follows the devaluation of Anglo Irish Bank shares, of which Mr Quinn owned about 25%.

Similarly, Barry O’Callaghan, CEO and controlling shareholder of the education software company Riverdeep, has lost almost €900 million over the last 12 months. Construction giants have inevitably taken a tumble due to the recession too with, for example, Kevin and Michael Lagan, owners of Lagan Holdings, seeing as much as €750 million wiped from their personal fortunes.

It’s not all glum news for the Irish super rich however, as retail queen, Hilary Weston, has seen her personal fortune rise by more than €1 billion, putting her at the top of the list of Ireland’s richest people.

The Impact on Philanthropy in Ireland

While the Sunday Times paints an optimistic picture about the levels of giving amongst the British super-rich, even going so far as to speak about how we are entering into a “new age of philanthropy”, there is some understandable concerns that the losses suffered by many of Ireland’s wealthiest individuals may impact negatively on the state of philanthropic giving in this country.

“We had got to the point where 500 million euro was donated to charity each year, but now people are beginning to see their wealth disappear,” Tina Roche, chief executive of the Community Foundation for Ireland, recently told the Global Post. “Over 20 billion euro has been written off in the last two years, so if there are bad assets of 90 billion euro, then Irish people’s wealth has gone down by 110 billion euro.”

Even at its peak last year, Ireland was still well behind the United States and 10 years behind the United Kingdom in philanthropic giving, according to Roche, whose foundation holds funds of 25 million euros and makes grants on behalf of donors.

Three years ago, at the height of the boom, the Bank of Ireland reported that Irish citizens were the second wealthiest in Europe, with an average net worth of €268,000. That was when the debate on philanthropy got going. Trinity College Dublin launched Ireland's first course dedicated to fundraising and philanthropy studies, in partnership with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

In one extreme example of how Irish philanthropists are feeling the impact of the recession, Niall Mellon, of the Niall Mellon Trust, has admitted that he has lost his wealth and is now actually “struggling to survive”.

As the recession bites and the demands for the services provided by charities up and down the country rises dramatically, the worry is that the level of philanthropic donations will decline even further.

“We were getting applications for 6 euro for every one we had,” Roche said. “Now we are getting applications for 10 euro for every one.” Philanthropy was just getting going, she added. “Now it has been knocked on its ass.”

Click on the logo below to be taken to the full 2009 Rich List:

Top 100 Companies in Northern Ireland

The Belfast Telegraph today published its latest Top 100 of Northern Ireland companies. The publication is seen as a useful companion for fundraisers to identify the largest and most profitable companies.

Topping the list is Resource Services Group, with Tesco in in second and Moy Park in 3rd. When it comes to profitability however (excluding banks) the number one Company is Bombardier Aerospace, then Viridian and then Dunnes Stores.

The largest pre-tax loss among the largest companies was Quinn Group (in NI) which lost £370m in the year yet was still ranked at number four in the overall league.

Read the full list here.