16 July 2005 – Arthur Beesley Irish Times
David and Simon Reuben, the billionaire brothers who emerged this week as backers of the Precinct bid for Jurys Doyle, bring a dogged attitude to deal-making in their first foray into the Irish business world.
In a career that now spans half a century, the Bombay-born Reubens have amassed a fortune estimated at £2.7 billion sterling (€3.9 billion) through dealings in the Russian metal market, international property, the rail business and a myriad of investments in ventures as varied as data centres and mobile telephony.
Nearly half their fortune is in liquid assets such as cash and bonds. They are not keen on publicity, but provide some details about their many interests on their personal website, reubenbrothers.com.
The Reubens are more shrewd with their wealth than flamboyant. The deals listed on the website tend to be valued more in the hundreds of millions than the tens. They don’t appear to do single-digit deals at all.
Through Precinct – controlled by developer Bryan Cullen, solicitor David Coleman and builder JJ Murphy – they may now be about to add the Jurys Doyle chain to their empire.
As the men who would provide most of the money in the event of a successful bid for the group by Predict, they would have a major say in the future of the business. But it is unclear at present what plans they have.
The brothers’ spokesman in London declined to comment on the specific plans but said their main investments at present were in property. That could suggest a bias towards a break-up of the group to precede a sale of some of its properties, a scenario favoured by Precinct.
Nevertheless, the Reubens’ spokesman pointed out that they have often taken long-haul investments in companies.
While their involvement gives Precinct an additional layer of credibility in a process that could see more than €1 billion changing hands, the real import may be that the Reubens’ financial muscle gives Precinct the scope to up their offer in the event of a bidding war. With international hoteliers said to be running the rule over Jurys Doyle, that is a distinct possibility.
If the late PV Doyle would lament any sale of the hotel group he built from scratch, it is without doubt that he would recognise the entrepreneurial grit of the Reubens.
Dubbed the “metal tsars” in Russia, they are estimated to have made some £1.3 billion in their dealings there. In the post-Soviet era, when other investors shirked what was an untested market, they bought up a large portion of the privatised aluminium industry through their company, Trans-World.
As the business climate chilled under President Vladimir Putin, the Reubens sold Trans-World for £300 million to Sibneft, the oil conglomerate controlled by the Russian tycoon, Roman Abramovich. It was a far cry from their poor upbringing in London.
David Reuben (66) joined Mount Star Metals in 1958, which provided him with an introduction to metal sources in the Soviet Union. He later co-managed a Soviet metals trading venture with Merrill Lynch.
Simon Reuben (64) enjoyed rapid success. He began in business by importing carpets into Britain. Three years later he bought J Holdsworth, England’s oldest carpet firm. He went into the property market in the 1970s before joining his brother in Trans-World.