IT’S BEEN a busy month for moneybags Tommy Kelly, who has finally secured permission for the renovation of his sprawling Seafield House in north Co Dublin after overcoming a problem with some brent geese and he also incorporated a new trade association company for the freight sector. And it turns out he is now in business with another chap with deep pockets, Barry English.
Kelly has been around a while but only really made a national impact after the 2021 sale to Asendia of the remaining half of the ecommerce platform he founded, eShopWorld (now called ESW), which valued the company at €1.4bn. Since then, he has been splashing the cash, including acquiring auctioneers Sherry FitzGerald and investing in an array of businesses.
Not all of his decisions have been good ones, however, and among his big punts on the stock market are dogs such as HealthBeacon and Molten Ventures.
Kelly also splurged €7m to acquire the mid-18th-century Palladian mansion, Seafield House outside Donabate, using a company he owns called Seastorm Ltd to acquire the substantial property on 33 acres. (It has been reported that the purchase price was €10m but that was the original asking price and included 80 acres of land.)
Tommy Kelly currently resides in a large three-storey house off the Malahide Road, bought in 2017 for around €1.6m, which is, surprisingly, registered in the name of his right-hand man, legal eagle David O’Beirne.
Seafield represents quite a step up in the property league, reflecting the minted investor’s overflowing coffers. It is an impressive pile indeed, designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (of Bank of Ireland on College Green fame) and includes a five-storey Italianate tower on the west side, adjacent to the site that has been chosen for a modern two-storey extension to the eight-bedroom house.
In June this year, Kelly, through Seastorm, applied for permission for the extension, which includes a dressing room for the master bedroom and a kitchen/dining room area, as well as the conversion of sheds and garages to residential use. Also, the existing broad flight of Chinese granite entrance steps to the Doric portico are to be replaced by Wicklow granite.
Given the relatively small scale of the proposed addition and the fact that it is barely visible when approaching along the driveway, there seemed little for Fingal planners to concern themselves with.
Unfortunately for Tommy Kelly, there was another factor to take into consideration. Seafield is located adjacent to the Malahide estuary, which is deemed a special area of conservation, in particular as far as wintering brent geese are concerned. (Birdwatchers will know that other waterfowl that frequent the area include the great crested grebe, the red-breasted merganser and the black-tailed godwit.)
Additional detailed information was sought in September on the potential impact of Kelly’s development but the planners were not impressed with the delivered document, which “did not address in full the matters of concern raised”. In late October, a comprehensive 41-page report was submitted courtesy of consultant Noreen McLoughlin, who found that “no individual elements of the proposed project are likely to give rise to negative impacts”. As a result, “mitigation measures are not required”.
Tommy Kelly was given the green light for his Seafield House extension on November 17, the same day that he incorporated a limited guarantee company called World Freight Alliance, where he is joined as a director by O’Beirne.
The ecommerce millionaire and one-time truck driver has a strong background in freight and logistics, having set up Two Way Freight Forwarding in the 1990s before selling out to United Arab Emirates giant Amarex in 2006. He has since been chairman of the Belgium-headquartered World Freight Alliance.
Another recent business where Kelly has popped up is called Amborella Ltd, where one of his subsidiary vehicles, Sparrowford, holds 50% of the shares. The other 50% turns out to be owned by Penman Construction (formerly Winthrop Engineering & Contractors), the data centre building giant owned by Barry English, which recorded a profit in the year to April 2022 of no less than €186m.
These two boys could spend an awful lot of time counting their money.