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Rory McIlroy and William Wright on Irish Rich List for the first time

By Nevin Farrell

Published 25/04/2016

Glamorous couple Rory McIlroy and girlfriend Erica Stoll, left, at a recent charity ball in Titanic Belfast
Glamorous couple Rory McIlroy and girlfriend Erica Stoll, left, at a recent charity ball in Titanic Belfast
Dr William Wright giving Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne a tour of his Wrightbus factory in Ballymena recently

As far as new entries on the Irish Rich List go, golfer Rory McIlroy and bus builder William Wright couldn't be more different.

The one thing that unites the two Northern Ireland multi-millionaires is that both are big players on the world stage in their respective fields.

Talented McIlroy (26), from Holywood, Co Down, is a former world No1 golfer and still has plenty of years left in which to dominate the sport.

And from humble post-war beginnings in a small industrial unit in the Hugomont area of Ballymena, Dr Wright went on to make his bus building firm into a world leader in its field.

Both are newcomers to this year's Sunday Times Rich List - and despite being 88-years-old, Wright is the highest earning newcomer.

Seventy years ago Dr Wright co-founded a coach building firm with his father Robert close to the old Braid Valley hospital site in Ballymena.

With his strong work ethic he worked hard to build the firm up and now the operation at Galgorm, just outside the town, is a huge success story, probably best known for producing the 'Boris Bus' - the new London Routemaster - being built on the banks of the River Maine.

The firm employs 2,000 staff and with the impending closures of the Michelin tyre factory and JTI tobacco plant in Ballymena, it is set to assume even greater importance in the area.

William Wright - a former politician famous for his feisty comments in Ballymena Borough Council - remains a high-profile business figure despite his advancing years.

In recent days he has been campaigning for Britain to leave Europe. Dr Wright and his family enter the 20th annual ranking of the 250 wealthiest on the island of Ireland in joint 151st place with a £68m fortune.

The former unionist councillor is actively involved in the operations of the Wright group of companies. The Wrights own 68% of its parent company, the Cornerstone Group. Its profits soared to £11m in the 15 months to the end of 2014 with its innovative buses in demand from London to the Far East. London buses can regularly be seen being driven along routes like the Grove Road in Ballymena as part of road-testing operations.

It all contrasts starkly with the glamorous world of McIlroy.In 2015, the Holywood man was ranked 17th in the Top 50 Young Rich with an impressive fortune of £38m.

But for the first time this year he has made it on to the main Irish list. The World No3 saw his fortune rise an incredible £18m to £56m in the past year, thanks to prize money and sponsorship deals.

Despite his growing wealth, McIlory is renowned for his generosity - he donated funds to this year's Irish Open and gave £1m to the Daisy Lodge support centre in Newcastle for children with cancer.

The third highest new entry from Northern Ireland is Sam Rusk (63), and his family, with £48m from their ownership of 52% of Thompson Aero Seating. Its revolutionary new seat is going into the Airbus A321 jet.

His daughter Nicola Rusk (28) makes it on to the Irish Young Rich List of multi-millionaires.

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