High Society

WRIGHT FAMILY AT WAR

INTERESTING TO see proceedings lodged in the Four Goldmines by assorted companies associated with the Wright fish dynasty in Howth. The matriarch here is former Aer Lingus air hostess Eileen Wright of Big Bamboo, Baily in Howth, who controls the bulk of the shares in the long-established north County Dublin empire of fish importers, bars and restaurants. The other principal is one of her five children, Mark Wright, who just happens to be the defendant in the litigation along with his daughter Shona Wright, while his mother and sister are included among the plaintiffs. The loaded Wright clan is not exactly unfamiliar with family disputes, and many moons ago they found their name all over the papers courtesy of a row over a family bar.

In that case, David Wright one of the five siblings (the others being the high profile club impresario Michael, Darren, Aishling and Mark) took a constructive dismissal case in the Employment Appeals Tribunal in 1999, claiming that he had been fired by his father, Michael Wright, and that he was entitled to a 50% stake in the bar.

The case was a colourful one with claims of screaming matches, while David Wright claimed he turned to the legal eagles because he was being “stonewalled” by the family. Given the high profile of the  Wrights, the spat generated rather a lot of unwelcome headlines, with the Irish Times at the time reporting that they were “deeply embarrassed and upset that such grubby linen is being publicly laundered”.

Fast forward 20 years and proceedings have just been issued in the High Court by Bernie Wright, her daughter Aishling Wright, and assorted Wright family companies against Mark and Shona Wright. Mark happens to be listed as a director and/ or shareholder in the assorted plaintiff companies. The cause of action relates to specific performance of a contract, and a statutory declaration under the Mediation Act 2017 has already been filed.

This document confirms that advice about the possibility of mediation being used to resolve a dispute has already been provided by the solicitor in the case. The management company in the Wright group is Simro Ltd and the directors here are Bernie and Mark Wright. The largest stake (57%) is held by another Wright family entity, Ireland’s Eye Seafoods Ltd, while BES investors have 38.5% of the shares. Simro charges annual management fees to the other Wright family companies, including Ireland’s Eye Seafoods, which is another of the listed plaintiffs in the case against Mark and Shona Wright.

Also listed as plaintiffs are Wrights of Seafood Bars Ltd, A Taste of Ireland Airports Ltd and Wrights Airport Convenience Store Ltd. Ireland’s Eye Seafoods (where Bernie, Mark and Aishling Wright are the directors) is considered the group parent company and is two-thirds owned by Bernie Wright, while Mark Wright holds the remaining one third stake.

The Wright group has made loans to Mark Wright and according to the accounts for Ireland’s Eye Seafoods, he owed Mark Wright the company €222,000 at the end of January last year, which represents 14% of the company’s net assets. Mark is, however, not involved in a new company incorporated by Bernie and Aishling Wright two months ago, Wrights of Howth (Airport) Ltd.

Given the scale of the Wright group and the profiles of those involved, this expensive looking High Court family stand-off could lead to yet more of the family’s linen being “publicly laundered”.