|(Courtesy, 3/12/00, by Simon Carswell, the Sunday Business Post) - -(Mr.Declan Ganley,One of 500 European Experts in 2002)
Many Charms of Mr.Adornis
Name: Declan Ganley Age: 32
Appearance: Dapper dresser with all the paraphernalia of an opulent lifestyle .
Newsworthiness: The collapse of Adornis.com, the Galway-based entrepreneur's online jewellery shop, was averted when it settled a £100,000 debt to a British recruitment firm, which threatened to wind it up. Adornis remains offline If a directory were published to assist students of our tiger economy, Declan Ganley's picture would not be out of place beside "entrepreneur" -- and possibly next to "successful", "opportune" and "elusive" as well.
In two decades of business, Ganley has worked on building sites in London, tried to sell insurance for satellites on Russian spacecraft, marketed metals and timber from Russia, sold jewellery on the internet, set up a cable television station in Bulgaria and won broadband telecommunications licences in major European nations, except Ireland. His apparently vast wealth from his timber and metal sales in eastern Europe are now funding his adventures in telecommunications.
Announcements from Ganley's companies always turn heads in the media, but his online jewellery retailer, Adornis.com, has filled column inches for the wrong reasons in recent weeks. Ganley predicted that Adornis would take between 1 and 5 per cent of the world's jewellery market in five years. He promised that it would do for jewellery what Amazon did for books when it was launched last year. So far, it hasn't. Internet observers initially mocked the kitsch choice of name, which conjures up images of saucier web material than luxury jewellery. The company raised £61 million in initial equity and debt financing, including about $30 million of Ganley's money, but last month sold "out-of-fashion" stock at hugely reduced prices, raising $2 million to buy new stock for the relaunched Adornis. It also had to lay off eight of its 20 staff, including its chief executive. Adornis' current troubles could turn it into another dotcom cadaver. It was saved from liquidation at the last minute when it reportedly paid £100,000 to British recruitment firm Computer People for supplying subcontractors to develop its software.
No financial details are available for Adornis, but Ganley says its margins are greater than Amazon's. He owns 40 per cent of the site. The online jeweller is now offline, not because of poor revenues, Ganley claims, but to allow it to transfer to another technical platform. He promises that a new and improved Adornis will be online in "several weeks". It has not been a good start for Adornis. Conveniently, Adornis's new platform is being developed by Rivada Solutions, another Ganley Group company, which provides end-to-end e-commerce solutions for new ventures. Rivada raised $35 million in US venture capital funds during the summer -- does a Ganley project ever fail to find funding? -- valuing the company at $105 million. Ganley is the largest shareholder. With Rivada, Ganley plans to increase the number of staff from 24 to 70 at his business retreat in Co Galway. Meanwhile, Ganley continues his domination of European telecommunications infrastructures, as EU states offload their local loop licences. These licences are highly lucrative as they are the link to customers on what is commonly known as "the last mile". Rivada and BroadNet will supply telecommunications to millions of European businesses and homes. Already, BroadNet -- his joint venture with US telecommunications giant, ComCast -- has been awarded licences in most European countries.
It is eyeing up licences in Britain, Italy, Austria and Sweden. But a licence in his home country still eludes him. Ganley has not yet decided whether to apply for the next batch of licences to be awarded here next year. He beat Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, but was "astounded" that BroadNet couldn't defeat Eircom for a broadband licence. Following the decision, he took legal action against the telecom regulator last year, arguing that the purpose of the licences was to provide competition for Eircom, the owners of the existing infrastructure. BroadNet had raised a £100 million package for the licence. The fact that his Cellstar consortium lost the second mobile licence in 1996 to Esat, made BroadNet's rejection on the broadband licence all the worse. ComCast's support of BroadNet is invaluable to Ganley. The American firm owns 62.5 per cent of the firm, Ganley owning the remainder. ComCast has been valued at $6 billion and its vast financial reserves guarantee capital needed for BroadNet's expansion. Ganley's firm plans to raise up to $1.5 billion but, like Adornis, there are no figures available for BroadNet to measure its exact value.
Ganley is trying to break Bulgaria's telecommunications monopoly with his Cable Bulgaria. Ganley plans to invest $300 million in the company over three years. It takes monthly subscriptions from 100,000 viewers. The fundraisings by Ganley companies blur his personal worth, which could stack to be more than £200 million. He is an enigmatic figure when it comes to financial details. Mystery surrounds the exact source of his wealth, which enabled him to build an eclectic ragbag of global businesses and buy a deluxe retreat at Moyne Park, outside Tuam. His builder father, Mick, renovated the pile.
The financial details of Ganley's companies are unknown; he prefers them to run "silent and deep" -- although it was known that the Ganley Group had a stg£90 million turnover during the first half of 1998.
His bid for Irish Fertiliser Industries was rejected after questions were raised about the net worth of his Canadian company, Grande Portage Resources (GPR). It owns 95 per cent of the Irish company, Grande Portage, which fronted the bid.
Ganley is the quintessential Celtic Tiger multi-millionaire. Lauded at business briefings as the man who could be Ireland's first e-billionaire, his lifestyle certainly befits that title. He owns several cars, including a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes purchased from a member of The Who rock band. He wears handmade shirts and flashy cufflinks. He commutes around his European empire by helicopter, which he parks beside his Galway home. He and his American wife throw lavish parties at their Galway pad.
One observer remembers the Ganleys' annual Galway Races feasts and millennium bash best. Ganley's appetite for business began at school in Co Galway. He checked his shares through a local bank manager during lunchbreaks.
The son of an Irish emigrant, he had returned to Ireland when he was 12. His accent bears traces of north London. Ganley worked in a pub and on building sites in London in his late teens while studying insurance at night. He later became a filing clerk at Lloyds. He pitched the idea of insuring western cargo on Russian spacecraft. The venture didn't materialise, but the burgeoning capitalist used the contacts in former communist countries to source aluminium and metal alloys in Siberia, selling them on the London Stock Exchange through Riga in Latvia. He traded timber in Russia and the Baltic States sourced from six million acres of forest he bought in north-west Russia. He sold the lands to Russia's largest investment bank in the early 1990s before the collapse of the country's economy.
His British company, Ganley International is believed to have made $100 million from the deal. He also mixed in Albanian business circles. He recounts a tale that, during his early business days, he had to choose between an apartment or an office with a sleeping bag. He opted for the latter, but endured the hallucinogenic effects of fumes from the car-spraying workshop below. Ganley's business contacts brought political connections. He was appointed trade adviser to the Latvian government, and economic adviser to a regional government in Russia. Ganley's association with American businessman Don De Marino has proved invaluable. A former economic adviser to the Reagan and Bush administrations, De Marino is tipped for a senior post in the new Bush administration (if it wins the White House). De Marino met Ganley in the US through a mutual associate while Ganley was working in Russia. The American later introduced Ganley to ComCast chairman Ralph Roberts. At home, Ganley is a committed Fianna Fail supporter, believing it to be "the only party that can deliver a united, peaceful Ireland within the EU". He made a $25,000 donation to the party in 1996. Former Galway Fianna Fail TD Marie Geoghegan-Quinn once held an executive post in Ganley International. She was involved in his $75 million project to invest in former Croatian state-owned companies in 1997. Her involvement was short-lived and she left to pursue her own interests. Ganley has been described as affable and friendly, even charming. He is certainly media-friendly. He impresses partners with his ability to identify niche markets. "He is always thinking about the next best thing," says American fund manager Ken Fields. "He is shrewd at watching the market and getting in and out at the right time," says Brendan Quinn. Some might regard this as the right time to bail out of Adornis, but Ganley is polishing up new jewels and preparing for a relaunch, despite signs that the site might be losing its sparkle.