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GC Powerlist Ireland

GC Powerlist > GC Powerlist: Ireland


For 28 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist (formerly the Corporate Counsel 100) is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Ireland, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region more


GC Powerlist: Ireland

(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)

   Ireland: An Overview

Amid robust economic recovery, corporate activity has soared in Ireland

Ireland’s economic recovery continues to reaffirm its position as the poster child of European austerity. In September 2014, official government figures showed that the country’s economy grew by 7.7% in a year. Significantly, the European Commission expects real growth to hit 3.6% overall for 2015, a projection that would mark Ireland as the fastest-growing economy in the European Union.

The country’s robust economic performance has already translated into M&A deal flow. According to some figures, the total value of M&A deals for 2014 comfortably exceeded €100bn, the highest since 2000. The astonishing turnaround in investor appetite has been buoyed further by the expected US government clampdown on so-called ‘inversion transactions’, which is driving US companies to relocate their tax base to Ireland before the proposals become law.

Earlier this year, Ireland’s prime minister (An Taoiseach) Enda Kenny made an appeal to emigrants who had departed the country in the aftermath of the economic crash to return home. Speaking at the launch of an official government policy paper, ‘Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy’, the appeal was aimed at encouraging educated Irish people to return, as the government ramps up efforts to entice international investment and capitalise on the fragile Irish economic recovery.

Identifying around 200,000 people, Kenny said: ‘Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of people, of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them. I believe that, after seven years of emigration, 2016 will be the year when the number of our people coming home will be greater than the numbers who leave.’

Although an ironic statement given the incumbent government’s less than enthusiastic support for the graduate population just five years before, it nevertheless reflects the slowly reviving notion of Ireland as a prosperous nation once more.

Significant drivers of renewed corporate activity include a series of loan book sales by both domestic and international institutions operating in Ireland, as well as work related to the recapitalisation and restructuring of the Irish banking sector post-crisis. Inversion deals by US and European clients, although tailing off, have dominated the corporate space and drove deal value through the roof in recent years, with this year’s largest transaction involving an Irish company so far being Mylan’s $32.6bn bid for Irish pharma company Perrigo Company, according to data provided by Mergermarket. The bullish mood is predominantly seen in the technology, medical and pharmaceutical, and leisure industries.

Eighty eight new-name investors entered the Irish market in 2014, according to IDA Ireland, translating into a 13% increase on 2013. Dublin’s docklands have become internationally known as ‘Silicon Docks’, thanks to the arrival and expansion of leading technology companies in the area, including Google, Facebook and

Deal machine

The country’s robust economic performance has obviously translated into M&A deal flow. Deal activity increased by 37%, with 115 deals in 2014, up from 84 in 2013. This compares with growth of 9% across Europe. The total value of M&A deals for the first nine months of 2014 comfortably exceeded €100bn.

Outward bound

One of the major features of Ireland’s robust transactional market has been the continuation of inversion deals that have kept the leading corporate firms busy. The trend gathered pace in 2012 and 2013, before accelerating last year, and was driven by corporations seeking lower tax bills than those currently levied at 35% of profits in the US. With a competitive corporation tax of 12.5%, Ireland has presented itself as a hotspot destination to remedy the problem with leading domestic law firms providing counsel on company law, tax and takeover regulation issues.

An example includes the $18bn merger of equals between Willis (which has an Irish-incorporated holding company listed on the New York Stock Exchange) and Towers Watson in June. The combined entity will have an Irish-incorporated, US-listed parent. The pace of inversion deals is, however, expected to slow, as recent action taken by the US Treasury in September 2014 limiting the ability to undertake tax-driven transactions is set to reduce activity.

The major source of investment into the country stems heavily from abroad, in particular US and European funds. Research commissioned by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, entitled ‘The Irish-US Economic Relationship 2015’, concluded that US firms have invested more than $277bn since 1990, while the output from US companies resident in Ireland exceeds $80bn annually. Moreover, according to a venture capital overview report published by the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association in 2014, Ireland equalled the EU average for private equity investments seen as a percentage of GDP, at 0.274% compared with a European average of 0.277%.

McCann FitzGerald corporate partner Alan Fuller now believes the landscape of investment is changing and says: ‘Twelve months ago it was international buyers looking to buy up cheap Irish assets and make a quick return. There are more trade deals and not just pure funds-type investors or private equity, which is a great sign.’

Such is the confidence in Ireland’s ability to compete for investment on an international stage, the government has implemented unusual manoeuvres to help stimulate future outlays, with a €7.2bn sovereign wealth fund. Dubbed the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), it serves as a discretionary portfolio targeted at both debt and equity investment, with the aim of generating growth in Ireland. Advised by McCann FitzGerald, its first venture was a €50m cornerstone investment as part of the €330m initial public offering of life sciences company Malin Corporation in March.

Undoubtedly the Irish economy remains in a fragile position for the foreseeable future, with its debt burden in particular proving a major obstacle to recovery. But what is also clear is the country’s cemented status as an attractive jurisdiction for deal-making in the global transactional market.

Our partner

Barry Devereux, Managing Partner at McCann FitzGerald:

McCann FitzGerald is delighted to support the inaugural GC Powerlist for Ireland. I would like, on behalf of all the partners at McCann FitzGerald, to congratulate the corporate counsel that have been selected for this prestigious publication.

Having come through some turbulent years, indicators as we head into the final quarter of 2015 point towards a positive story for Ireland. According to the latest IBEC quarterly report, a trio of external boosts to the Irish economy – the ECB’s QE programme, lower energy prices and a weak euro – all point to a continuation of Ireland’s strong economic growth performance in 2015.

Surging exports and investment, which led to growth of 4.8% last year, are continuing their strong performance and unemployment levels are at their lowest in eight years. Leading indicators in the first half of the year suggest that business investment growth in both services and manufacturing has continued its strong expansion.

The Companies Act 2014 came into effect on 1 June 2015, with the intention of making it easier for companies to do business in Ireland, whether domestically or by using Ireland as a regional or a global base. Lawyers, both in-house and in practice, are working hard to guide businesses and assist them in taking advantage of these and other regulatory and legal changes.

These positive developments, coupled with ever changing and disruptive technology, mean the legal industry is constantly evolving in order to meet client and business demands. Given the recent developments in both the economy and the corporate legal landscape there is now, more than ever, a higher demand for strong and innovative corporate counsel in Ireland, with the role of in-house lawyers continuing to grow.

In-house legal teams are being called on to take a leading role in advising businesses, and have an expanding influence in areas such as risk management and business strategy. They are seen as thought leaders and experts within their industries, with the insights to drive and create business opportunities and influence decisions at the highest levels.

Private practice lawyers have a strong role to play when advising corporate counsel, and it is important that they have an understanding of the economic and business landscape that their clients are operating in. They need to be on hand to offer expert counsel within their area of expertise, and work closely with their in-house counterparts to navigate through the changing business, regulatory and legal environment. There are a wealth of opportunities for private and in-house legal teams to collaborate, allowing them to give the most expert advice to their business, and ultimately to drive further growth.

McCann FitzGerald is excited by both the positive economic outlook for Ireland and the evolving role of corporate counsel. As a firm we seek to enable your progress through the provision of strategic legal counsel on the major business and commercial issues of our time delivered through a culture of high performance and high integrity. We look forward to developing further our partnerships and collaborations with corporate counsel as Ireland continues its economic recovery. These partnerships enable business to utilise the insight that McCann FitzGerald has derived from working with clients across a range of industries for many decades.

On behalf of all the partners at McCann FitzGerald, I wish to extend our warmest congratulations to all that have been included in the inaugural GC Powerlist for Ireland. Recipients of this accolade come from a broad and varied range of sectors, from banking and financial services to retail chains and consumer brands. This prestigious recognition highlights the hard work, strength and innovation displayed by corporate counsel across Ireland, and also emphasises the increasingly important and expanding role of corporate counsel in today’s business environment.


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