16 July 2005 – Tom Lyon Irish Independent
THE billionaire Reuben brothers this week stepped publicly into the arena as an important element of the backers behind an approach to take over Jurys Doyle Group.
Bombay-born David and Simon Reuben are the hugely successful sons of Iraqi Jewish textile merchants.
From metal trading, to carpet-making and more recently in property development, they have amassed a fortune worth at least €3.6bn.
Although Ireland hasn’t been too much on their radar to date, they have had a few brushes with some of the better-known figures of Irish business.
Sometime in June the brothers joined Irish-backed Precinct Investments’ approach to acquire the hotel group.
Their involvement and vast deep pockets clearly answer how Precinct will put up the equity required in an approach for the property-play hotels group, which this week was raised to €1.4bn.
The banking debt side of this bid is being supplied by Anglo Irish Bank, a leading financier of property-based lending.
Anglo is currently working with the Reubens on a number of developments in the UK.
The Reubens themselves are shrewd property developers, who are value investors.
Earlier this year, they were part of a consortium that sold Marks & Spencers’ headquarters building to Irish property investor Dave Arnold.
Another recent property coup saw them emerge as part of the consortium that took over Elliott Bernerd’s Chelsfield company for £2.1bn.
In doing so, they succeeded in beating off Quinlan Private, which was also chasing the deal.
As part of this process, they were involved in the sale of Wentworth golf club to clothing tycoon Richard Caring in a deal unsuccessfully contested by Cavan billionaire Sean Quinn.
One of the Reuben brothers’ partners in acquiring Chelsfield was Westfield, an Australian shopping centre group aggressively expanding in the UK.
Anglo Irish Bank is one of the banks involved in the Reubens’ development of Chelsfield’s remaining assets.
With no major shopping centre in Ballsbridge, it will be interesting to see if Precinct and the Reubens invite Westfield to move for the first time into Ireland if they are successful.
The London Olympic Games win will further add to the brothers’ fortunes.
They are developing a major residential and office complex in Stratford, next to the site where the Olympic Village will be located.
In Ireland, the Reubens have no known significant business interests to date.
Simon Reuben is, however, a director of Irish-registered aluminium company Tradalco.
It is one of a number of Reuben companies which have pursued Russian metals oligarch Oleg Deripaska for many years.
In 2002 matters relating to the affair were listed for appearance in Dublin’s commercial courts.
The case, which promised to be fascinating, was never heard in Dublin, as in July of this year Mr Deripaska settled his £159m dispute with the Reuben brothers.
The two brothers were born in India in the 1940s to Iraqi Jewish parents. As teenagers they moved with their family to 1950s’ Britain.
Older brother David got into the global scrap metal business.
This took him as a young man into the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.
Younger brother Simon stayed closer to home, building up a carpet importation business.
He successfully turned around Britain’s oldest carpet company and ploughed the profits into property.
By 1977 David had set up the Trans-World Group with American partners to trade aluminium and tin.
But the company came under huge pressure when the price of tin fell to the floor in the 1980s.
In 1986, David – now with his brother Simon – bought out their American partners, and began to focus the company on aluminium.
Trans-World went on to make billions in Russia because the company put up the capital to allow aluminium smelting companies crippled by debt to continue to trade. At its peak in 1997, Trans-World turned over $7bn.
However, by the end of the 1990s when the rule of law really began to break down in Russia, the brothers sold off their interests.
It is not known how much they made during these sell-offs.
Since then the brothers have focused their attention on property deals, private equity investments and venture capital projects.