By Harry Keaney
Last month, Bord F_ilte’s director general, Matt McNulty, announced his departure from the organization. Before that was the high-profile departure of international marketing director Noel Toolan. Now comes the news that Bord F_ilte’s general manager for Europe, Orla Brannigan, is leaving to become senior vice president of marketing at Flexicom, a Dublin-based software company specializing in the development and marketing of electronic solutions.
Brannigan had been tipped as a possible successor to either Toolan or McNulty.
IBO MEETING The Irish Business Organization of New York will hold its next meeting today, May 13, in the Shelburne Hotel, on Lexington Avenue at 39th Street in Manhattan. The guest speaker will be Tony White, president of Abacus Direct. The topic of his talk will be “Taking Your Company Public.”
NORTH BILL A delegation from Northern Ireland was on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., last week lobbying for support of House and Senate bills aimed at promoting free trade between the U.S. and the North. The group consisted of Sir Oliver Napier, Cecil Walker, M.P., Professor Michael Smith, who is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Ulster, Omagh Council chairman Joe Byrne, and Irish News Publisher Jim Fitzpatrick. The group met with some of the 30 Senate and House cosponsors of the bill.
The Northern Ireland-Border Counties Free Trade, Development and Security Act is modeled after the extension of the U.S.-Isr’l Free Trade Implementation Act of 1985. The rationale for both bills is the same: preferred trade status with the U.S. will stimulate investment, encourage trade and address long-term unemployment. For information on the content and progress of the bills, call Tom Rodgers at (703) 671-8510.
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EURO CHANGE Business transactions in Ireland between retailers and their suppliers will change from punts to euros on Jan. 1, 2001, well before consumers start to use the new currency, according to an initiative by the Food Drink & Tobacco Federation.
The initiative is an effort to familiarize consumers before the euro notes and coins are introduced on Jan. 1, 2002. Retailers who participate in the initiative, which is voluntary, are advised to provide a dual pricing system three months prior to Jan. 1, 2002, and for three months afterward.
Meanwhile, a forgotten byproduct of European monetary union is the expected clampdown on money laundering throughout the continent. This campaign coincides with efforts by European countries, Ireland included, to move against offshore tax avoidance by companies and individuals as well as clamping down on harmful tax competition.
MORE JOBS More jobs are on the way for Roscommon and Clare. Harmac Medical Products has finalized agreements with IDA Ireland for a project that will create 100 new jobs at Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. Meanwhile, Bay Networks Incorporated has announced a major investment at Shannon Free Zone in County Clare. Bay Networks provides products for corporate enterprises, service providers & telecommunications carriers. Fifty jobs are expected to be created at Bay Networks itself, and more with local manufacturing and logistics suppliers.
ART APPRECIATION According to art dealers, interest in, and prices of, Irish art, have never been higher. While international interest is largely confined to masters of the 19th and early 20th century, such as Jack Yeats, William Orpen, William John Leech and Walter Osborne, the bustling Irish economy has ensured that domestic buyers in Ireland are prepared to invest in lesser known artists.
Sothebys and Christies say the price boom has lured many private collectors into the open. While Irish art has always been popular with art buyers, getting good quality paintings has sometimes been difficult because private collectors have not been tempted to part with them until the price is right. And that time may well be now. However, some Irish art dealers are skeptical about the current boom, comparing it to the current property boom in Ireland.
Sothebys will hold a sale of Irish art in its London showrooms on May 21. Christies will hold a sale the next day.
BOSTON BOUND Representatives of more than 40 new companies from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Isr’l, as well as representatives of the Cullinane Group, the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the New England-Isr’l Chamber of Commerce, the Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the International Fund for Ireland and Gemini Capital Fund Management, will be in attendance at the second annual conference on technology and investment opportunities in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Isr’l on May 18 from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the John F. Kennedy Library, Columbia Point, Boston. For information, call Robert Connolly at (617) 287-7073 or John Hoey at (617) 287-7006.
PACKAGE DEAL The Stone Container Corporation of Chicago has agreed to merge with packaging rival Jefferson Smurfit Corporation. Jefferson Smurfit is the U.S. arm of the Irish company Jefferson Smurfit Group PLC.
Jefferson Smurfit will be renamed Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., and its stockholders will have one share of the renamed company for each share they currently hold.
Jefferson Smurfit was taken private in a 1989 leveraged transaction by Jefferson Smurfit Group PLC and a Morgan Stanley affiliated fund. After the Missouri company went public again through a 1994 offering, the Irish company was left with its current 47 percent stake, and the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Fund holds 36 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Smurfit PLC has agreed to buy 20 million shares of Smurfit Corp. from certain investors, including the Morgan Stanley Leveraged Equity Fund II LP at $25 apiece on condition of completion of the merged with Stone. As a result, Smurfit PLC will have a stake of about 34 percent in Smurfit-Stone Container, and the fund will have an about 9 percent holding in the new company.
Roger Stone, 63, chairman, president and chief executive of Stone Container, will serve as CEO of the new company. Ray Curran, the 51-year-old finance director of Jefferson Smurfit Group PLC, will serve as executive vice president and deputy chief executive.