Belfast Telegraph

NI businessman pulls out of running to buy stricken Wrightbus

Darren Donnelly
Darren Donnelly

By Mark McConville

Northern Ireland businessman Darren Donnelly has pulled out of the running to purchase Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus.

The news came after reports that the company could be forced to call in administrators if a rescue deal isn't secured within days.

A spokeswoman confirmed that while Mr Donnelly had emerged as the potential acquirer of Wrightbus, he has since withdrawn from discussions regarding the purchase of the company.

The spokeswoman added: "Whilst discussions had been ongoing over the past number of weeks, Mr Donnelly has confirmed that he has withdrawn from the process and is no longer pursuing the potential purchase of the Wrightbus company."

It is reported that Wrightbus needs a cash injection of around £30m to stay in business, with its parent company, Wrights Group, hiring professional services firm Deloitte in July to advise on talks with potential investors.

A spokeswoman for Wrights Group said it is in "advanced discussions with a limited number of investors".

"We are optimistic and are working hard towards getting the best possible outcome for the skilled workforce we have in Ballymena, UK mainland and Ireland and our international territories," the spokeswoman added.

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"Wrights Group is world class and recognised for the technology it brings to the marketplace.

"We will ensure that staff are kept informed throughout this process.

"Due to the commercial nature of these final discussions, we are unable to comment further until the process is completed."

Wrights Group employs around 1,400 people.

Mr Donnelly founded Toomebridge-based articulated trailer manufacturer Retlan Group along with his father John before selling the business to Chinese firm CIMC Vehicles in June 2016 for a price believed to be around £100m.

Darren and dad John (70) were listed as the 19th richest people in Northern Ireland in 2019 with a combined £94m net worth, according to the Sunday Life.

Mr Donnelly is listed as a director of four companies, namely property development firm Valor Homes, Diamond Shelf Company Number 9 Limited, Sperrin Asset Company Limited and The Oaks Management Company.

His longest current appointment spans nearly 15 years at Valor Homes while he has resigned from seven companies and held 11 appointments at 11 dissolved companies.

Belfast Telegraph