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Northern Ireland rich list: The 30 wealthiest people revealed

Son of construction empire founder takes pride of place at top of rich list with £442m fortune

Euromillions winners...Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Euromillions winners...Frances Connolly, 52, and Patrick Connolly, 54, from Moira scooped a £115 million EuroMillions jackpot in the New Year's Day lottery draw. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Roma Downey
Kevin Lagan and his two sons Peter (centre) and John.

By Samantha McCaughren and Stephen Gordon

Euromillions jackpot winners Frances and Patrick Connolly are the new entries in the Northern Ireland top 30 Rich List.

The easygoing Co Down couple’s life-changing £115million win sees them enter the annual list in 16th position, just behind golfing superstar Rory McIlroy (£158m) and Ballymena-born Hollywood A-lister Liam Neeson (£117m).

Top of the pile is construction heavyweight Kevin Lagan with an estimated fortune of £442m in the chart compiled by the Sunday Independent newspaper.

Londonderry-born actress-turned-LA producer Roma Downey and east Belfast-born music legend Van Morrison are among the handful of famous names from the entertainment world on the list dominated by home-grown entrepreneurs who have created internationally successful companies.   

The top 30 NI super-rich are as follows:

1 Kevin Lagan

£442m (Construction)

The sale of a huge chunk of the building materials and construction empire, the Lagan Group of Belfast — left to brothers Kevin (67) and Michael (61) having been established in the 1960s by their father Peter — has been a major boost to Kevin’s finances.

He is understood to be the main beneficiary of the sale to English aggregates company Breedon.

He has also retained Lagan Homes, a housebuilding division, while sons Peter and John are investing in property, distribution and tourism ventures through Lagan Investments.

Ballymena actor Liam Neeson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Ballymena actor Liam Neeson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Van Morrison

2  The Haughey Family

£439m  (Health)

Mary Haughey and her daughter and sons own health and veterinary products firm Norbrook Laboratories, which was founded in 1969 by her Louth-born late husband Edward, who held the title of Lord Ballyedmond and lived in Rostrevor, and who died in a helicopter crash in 2014. £104m of assets including properties and farmland were transferred to Mary and her family in 2015. It was reported that her husband left an estate worth £472m in total.

3  Roma Downey

£358m (Media)

With several homes in the exclusive Malibu beachside suburb of Los Angeles, Roma Downey (58, above) is one of the wealthiest women on the Rich List.

The Emmy-nominated actress and her husband, former British soldier Mark Burnett (also 58), have made their money from TV formats and productions.

They include a faith and family-oriented content network Lightworkers Media, which is a joint venture with MGM Studios, and the upcoming Netflix production Messiah. Previously they adapted The Bible for TV, while Burnett was the brains behind the formats for hits such as The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den and The Voice.

4 Tim Martin

£354m (Pubs)

Outspoken Brexit supporter and Campbell College, Belfast-educated Tim Martin (63) owns 31% of listed UK pub chain Wetherspoon, which he founded in 1979.

The share price has fallen by 14% in the past year. The keen surfer is based in south-west England. Wetherspoons has over 900 pubs in the UK.

5 Paddy McKillen £308m (Property)

West Belfast native Paddy McKillen (63) got into the property game in the 1980s after leaving school at 16 to work in his family's exhaust repair business. He has a multinational property empire.

After a protracted battle with the billionaire Barclay brothers, he sold a 36% stake in three of London's most expensive hotels to the Qatari royal family, but continues to receive a £5m-a-year fee for helping to manage them.

Former F1 star Eddie Irvine
Former F1 star Eddie Irvine
Rory McIlroy

6 Tom Eakin and family £305m (Medical Devices)

Co Down man Tom Eakin (85) was running his pharmacy in Dundonald on the outskirts of east Belfast when he set up TG Eakin company in 1974 to produce medical ostomy products, particularly skin protection and wound drainage products.

The Comber-based firm bought a Welsh company, Pelican Healthcare, in 2007 and the group, which has a parent firm in the Isle of Man, exports to more than 30 countries.

7 John King £282m (Pharmaceuticals)

Chamber music enthusiast and former pharmaceutical graduate and lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, John King (69), who lives in Co Kildare, is the former CEO of women's healthcare firm Galen, which was one of Northern Ireland's largest firms in the sector. The firm merged with Warner Chilcott in 2004.

8 Danny Hill £273m (Property)

Belfast-born Danny Hill (76) emigrated to Australia at the age of 13 and made his fortune mining nickel in the 1970s.

He and his wife's high-end property development firm, Chardan Development Group, which primarily focused on developments along the Australian Sunshine Coast near Brisbane, has also prospered.

The couple are keen collectors of art and artefacts, and spend most of their time in Monaco.

9 Brian Conlon £194m (Finance)

Newry's Brian Conlon (52) owns 33.9% of AIM-listed financial services group First Derivatives. The company performed strongly up until its last set of six months' interim results late last year, with both sales and profits up 20%.

Having started out as a provider of specialist software to leading global investment banks, the firm has evolved into a provider of products and consulting services, particularly building on its strength in ultra-high performance data analytics.

10 Philip O'Doherty £173m (Manufacturing)

Engineer Philip O'Doherty (58), a Derry native based in Dubai, owns a majority stake in one of the north-west's biggest manufacturers, E+I.

The firm, which makes specialist data centre switchgear and power distribution equipment for the energy industry, employs about 1,700 staff around the world.

O'Doherty, who graduated in engineering from Queen's University Belfast, chairs Derry City FC and financially supports the club.

11 Chris Rea £172m (Manufacturing)

Co Down native Rea (65) owns about 60% of AES Engineering, the Yorkshire firm he founded that became the world's largest manufacturer of mechanical seals. Private equity group 3i took a 40% stake in the business in 2007. He's banked dividends of over €13m over the past three years.

12 Harold Montgomery £168m (Transport)

Sales and profits were slightly down in the (most recent) 2017 accounts of 70-year-old Harold Montgomery's Newtownabbey haulage firm, Ballyvesey.

However, it is still one of the largest in the sector in Northern Ireland.

There is also property in the UK, Poland and Europe, and the business caters for materials recycling and supplies construction machinery, distributes container handling equipment and does truck rental and hire.

13 Rory McIlroy £158m (Sport)

Holywood, Co Down native Rory McIlroy (29) may have gone another year without a Major win on the golf course in 2018, but that hasn't prevented his financial success.

Forbes said he earned about $34m in 2018, plus another $3.7m in winnings. It made him the 26th highest paid athlete and the fourth highest paid golfer in the world.

Company filings in the UK reveal he was in a number of investment consortia that put money into property regeneration in Liverpool's docklands, as well as property in Sheffield and a scheme to refurbish a data centre in Birmingham.

The most recent accounts for his Rory Foundation, which gives money to various charities that help sick children, said it donated £1.57m in 2017.

14 Bill McCabe £145m (Technology)

Bill McCabe's Oyster Group is an investor in a host of tech and quirky companies - from Datahug, Fleetmatics and FieldAware to psychic phoneline firm Psytech Digital.

McCabe (62), who was born in Belfast, made his fortune when CBT, the e-learning company that he founded, floated on the Nasdaq in the 1990s.

15 Liam Neeson £117m (Entertainment)

Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson (66) has had a busy year as he continues his career beyond the smash hit Taken trilogy. Most recently, he starred in Netflix's The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Add to that a role in the glittering cast of Hollywood release Widows and his own The Commuter movie makes for a busy year for the Antrim man.

16 Frances and Patrick Connolly £115m (Lottery win)

Frances and Patrick Connolly from Moira started off 2019 with a life-changing lottery win. They scooped a total of £114,969,775.70 in the EuroMillions draw. Speaking to the media, the couple, who are in their 50s, said when they found out they had won the jackpot they had "a cup of tea and a hug".

Patrick Connolly is a businessman and Frances Connolly is a teacher, who has been off work for a period of time due to a leg injury.

The couple plan to spread the wealth around and have drawn up a list of 50 people with whom they plan to share their good fortune.

17 Ted Kelly £110m (Insurance)

Armagh-born Edmund F 'Ted' Kelly (73) is a former chairman of insurance giant, Liberty Mutual.

Kelly previously spent three years as chief executive of the company, which bought Quinn Insurance for €1 back in 2011.

During his time at the helm of the company, he earned €138m, which he defended, saying that an "accounting issue" made his payout look bigger.

18 Michael Lagan £97m (Construction)

Michael (62) and one of his sons continue to run Belfast's Lagan Construction, a civil engineering business that emerged out of a nine-year court battle fought over the Lagan family business empire.

Three of Michael's companies had profits of £13.5m on £340m of revenues for 2016/2017. We assume that he benefited from a minority stake in the group.

19 John and Darren Donnelly £94m (Transport)

John (70) and his son Darren (47) both still sit on the board of Antrim-based Retlan Group. The manufacturing business was purchased by Chinese firm CIMC Vehicles in June 2016 for a price believed to be around £100m.

The company has continued to grow under its new management but volatility in sterling has resulted in a slip of their net worth.

20 Dr Peter Fitzgerald £91m (Health)

Fitzgerald heads up Antrim-headquartered healthcare diagnostics group Randox. The 67-year-old announced plans to invest £50m into three centres of excellence across Northern Ireland, each tasked with developing technologies to diagnose heart conditions, cancer and infectious diseases.

The company reported a £10.8m loss in 2017 due to "exceptional costs" but managed to grow its revenues to £85.4m.

21 Paul Smith £90m (Entertainment)

Belfast native Paul Smith (70) developed the quiz show format for Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? The 71-year-old's firm Celador sold some of the rights for it in 2006, with Smith securing around £42m. He later went on to win $269m in damages from Disney in a US court ruling following a six-year battle over unpaid royalties.

22 Geoffrey Elliott £88m (Pharmaceuticals)

Former Galen finance chief Geoffrey Elliott (66) controls medical packaging group, Pharmapac. The group holding company made a loss before tax of almost £420,000 in the year to the end of June 2017 and it noted that it was exposed to price pressure from competition that could hit revenue.

It did not pay the Portadown man a dividend in the year but said investment continued in order to meet new customer demand.

23 Maureen Wheeler £88m (Entertainment)

What started out as a 1970s hippie journey for Belfast-born Maureen Wheeler (72) ended in one the world's best-loved publishing empires, at least amongst budget travellers.

Lonely Planet founders Wheeler and her husband Tony wrote about their experiences travelling from Britain to Asia in a campervan in 1973 and then developed the format by bringing in amateur writers to help cover the globe.

BBC Worldwide took control of the Lonely Planet travel guide book business for a total of £121m. Since then, the couple have set up the Planet Wheeler foundation in 2008 to tackle poverty in Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, Nepal and Afghanistan.

24 Chris Watson £86m (Retail)

When Chris Watson (44) took the helm of his parents' Ballyclare-based Chain Reactions cycling equipment business, he looked to the internet for growth and he got it.

So much so that it became the biggest online retailer of all things cycling-related. The family sold the group to its main rival, Wiggle, in 2016 as part of a merger deal.

25 Raymond Hutchinson £84m (Food)

Ray Hutchinson (69), who lives in Banbridge, and his family own Manderley Food Group, based in Tandragee, Co Armagh, which operates the Tayto brand here. It is now the largest producer of snack foods in the UK following its acquisition of Tavern Snacks in 2017.

Brexit and uncertainty around sterling are potential concerns but turnover grew from £163m to £173m in 2017, with profits down from £2.9m to £1.5m.

26 Eddie Irvine £75m (Property, Sport)

Former Formula One driver Eddie Irvine (52) raced for Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar and won four Grand Prix. He turned to full-time property developing when his motorsport career finished in 2002 after making an estimated £40m from the sport.

He has since invested large amounts in property and other developments as far afield as Miami.

The Conlig man bought an island in the Bahamas and the nearby Exuma Yacht Club in 2011 and is reported to have invested $10m turning it into a luxury resort.

27 Neville Isdell £74m (Food)

Downpatrick-born Neville Isdell (75) turned around the fortunes of once deserted CHQ on Dublin's north quays, which he bought for what now looks like a €10m bargain.

He was there to greet Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they visited the Epic Ireland museum he has created there.

He brought the same restorative touch to Coca-Cola, where he spent much of his working life and reached his career pinnacle as chairman and CEO, bringing back its fizz when it needed it most.

28 Michael Herbert £73m (Food)

Belfast-based Herbert (61) operates 145 KFC outlets, with up to 40 new ones added last year, making the group the biggest KFC fast-food franchise in Europe.

It also operates a major Häagen-Dazs franchise. Herbert was last year reportedly selling off an east Belfast luxury apartment development site and its plans for close to £4m.

Previously, his Lesley Tower was sold for £8.6m, while his Lesley Exchange buildings were sold for £2.3m and £3m each.

29 Van Morrison £63m (Entertainment)

Belfast music legend Van Morrison (73) released his 40th studio album, The Prophet Speaks, in December. The singer - knighted by the Queen - also owns residential properties in Belfast and Bath. Shareholders funds at his company Exile productions rose to £6.2m at April 2017.

30 William Wright and family £61m (Transport)

There was good news for the Co Antrim family business Wrightbus - of which William Wright (93) is the chairman - when it won orders for more than 200 buses from customers in Hong Kong last year.

But the order came after a difficult year for the firm which saw a big drop in profits and two rounds of redundancies. Pre-tax profits were £1.5m in 2017, down from £10.7m in 2016.

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