High Society


John Collison

John Collison

IT WON’T come as too much of a surprise to hear that the 2021 acquisition of Abbeyleix House by John Collison has seen the Stripe founder chuck millions of euros into the operation. Most recently the billionaire checked the loose change down the back of his sofa and wrote a cheque for €4m.

A company called Abbeyleix House and Farm Ltd was incorporated following the acquisition from David Davies of the sprawling Co Laois estate. Collison himself is not actually a director but would be rather familiar with the couple who have been appointed in his stead, Denis and Lily Collison, the parents of John and his equally minted older brother, Patrick.

According to the Property Price Register, Abbeyleix House was sold to Collison for €11.5m, although this would not have included the value attached to the surrounding 1,000-odd acres of land.

As was the case with the previous owner, an offshore company is central to the Abbeyleix operation, with the Jersey-registered Leathros Ltd (named after an area in Sligo, the county where Denis and Lily Collison reside) holding the shares in the Irish entity.

It will be recalled (see The Phoenix 1/7/22) that Leathros was established by one Christo van der Spuy, a Channel Islands legal eagle who works for corporate specialists Mourant, based in St Helier, which boasts of providing advice on the laws of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Coincidentally, the company that had been established by Davies to hold and operate Abbeyleix House and estate – Abbeyleix Group Ltd – was incorporated in the BVI.

Reflecting the way in which estates such as Abbeyleix can soak up the moolah, the last accounts filed for Davies’s Abbeyleix Group revealed accumulated losses of over €5.3m, while the valuation for the property included in the figures was €9.42m.

Fast-forward to the end of March this year and Leathros, which has an address in St Helier, pumped €4m into the Abbeyleix House and Farm vehicle, with the filing signed last month by Denis Collison.

Denis, of course, has other gigs apart from fronting for country estates ultimately owned by offshore entities. For example, he is a director and shareholder of Weston Aviation Academy Ltd (WAA), where a chunk of Collison money has also landed.

The company recently got the green light from South Dublin County Council for a multi-million-euro upgrade of facilities at Weston Airport near Lucan in Co Dublin.

In 2021, part-time pilot John Collison and a group of investors purchased a majority stake in the airport and the National Flight Centre, which operates out of a hangar close to the terminal building. An investment of a cool €17m was made through the Jersey-registered Iolar Aviation Holdings Ltd, which has acquired the shares previously held in the name of builder Brian Connelly and his family.

WAA has just filed accounts that show accumulated losses at the company stood at €5.7m at the end of June last year, up from €3.9m in June 2021. The value of the assets (land and buildings), however, jumped from €3m to €9.4m.

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