Irish may bid for exclusive golf course

THE battle for the exclusive Wentworth golf course in Britain could end this week with retail millionaire Richard Caring poised to snap up the club from under the noses of Irish businessmen Sean Quinn and Derek Quinlan.

Mr Caring has had his offer of £110 million (€161m) for the club accepted by its largest shareholder, the property company Chelsfield and is set to sign an exclusivity agreement later this week, it is understood.

The decision by Chelsfield to back Mr Caring, who owns a number of clothing companies, means any potential new bid will have to go above £120 million (€176m) under Wentworth’s company bylaws.

It is believed that Mr Quinn, the owner of Quinn Direct insurance and worth up hundreds of millions of euros, and several other bidders including Derek Quinlan will be meeting later today to discuss their options.

Mr Quinlan, owner of the Quinlan Private investment vehicle that bought the Savoy Group of hotels earlier this year, is one of the minority shareholders in the club and can launch his own bid.

To do so it will cost him and his wealthy backers at least £120. That may be small change to Mr Quinlan and his backers. They are on the verge of selling the flagship Savoy Hotel to a Saudi prince for around £300 million.

Mr Quinn had come from behind in recent bidding rounds to top a previous offer by Mr Caring at £102m but it is not known if he will up his price to the £120m mark.

Wentworth is well-known as the host club for the World Matchplay Championship and the Volvo PGA Championship. The exclusive club has three 18-hole courses and a nine-hole course as well as a range of leisure and conference facilities.

According to some reports the Wentworth is actually worth around £95 million based on its profitability, but bidders are paying higher to get control of one of the most prized assets in golf.

In addition to the Irish duo a number of other shareholders in the club are also lining up their own offers. Surinda Arora, a millionaire who lives nearby and is a member is looking at taking control, while Eddie Shah, the newspaper tycoon and shareholder is mulling his options.

Separately, is it understood that bids are expected to be launched for the nursing home group Westminster Healthcare by the end of September with JP McManus and John Magnier being tipped as favourites.

They pair, along with former Kerry Group chief executive, are the owners of rival group Barchester, which has been on the acquisition trail in the past year snapping up three small nursing homes.

Westminster, which runs 88 nursing homes in Britain, is valued by its current owners at around €600 million.

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