The Comer brothers — the gift that keeps on giving for Galway FC

Brian and Luke Comer. Pic: Mike Shaughnessy

Brian and Luke Comer. Pic: Mike Shaughnessy

The billionaire Glenamaddy brothers who are funding Galway FC to the tune of €300,000 over a three year period said this week they plan to extend their sponsorship of the city based League of Ireland side in the future.

Luke and Brian Comer, the former plasterers who left Ireland in the mid eighties and made a fortune in England as developers, were in Galway to attend the renaming of the new stand at Eamonn Deacy Park in memory of their late father and uncle, Luke and Michael Comer.

And the notoriously media shy brothers - who own one of the UK’s largest and most successful property companies which has interests that extend into Europe and the United States and were repeatedly linked with a bid for Aston Villa FC in 2005 - have rubbished reports that they intended to buy the club.

Speaking to this newspaper earlier this week Luke, who lives in Monaco and owns 70 race horses and a stud farm in Dunboyne, Co Meath, said Galway holds a special place in their hearts and they are delighted to be involved with Galway FC. They are its main sponsors.

Asked whether they plan to continue their sponsorship after the three year period ends he said: “I’d say we would extend it.”

They have maintained strong links with their native county. They became involved with Galway FC through their good friend Jimmy McDermott who lives in Athenry and was a member of Galway United Supporters Trust.

“Jimmy went to school with one of our older brothers and he introduced us to the Galway lads,” says Luke. “He works in sales and used gentle persuasion to get us in.”

The timing was right too as the Comers had been hitting the headlines in recent times over their multi-million euro property spending spree in the city. Out of the Irish market for 27 years they made a dramatic comeback in 2011. They have bought three large development sites on the eastern side and purchased a four acre development site in Eyre Square (including Odeon House, O’Connell’s Bar, An Pucan Bar, and a range of buildings on Forster Street as well as residential buildings on St Patricks’s Avenue ) in addition to apartment blocks in Newcastle, Knocknacarra and Oranmore. The Eyre Square site will be redeveloped and will feature a mix of retail and office accommodation. “Our goal for Galway city is to get one of the big guys, like Google, in to boost employment in the area.”

During their short visit to Galway earlier this week they checked out a number of other potential property investments, they disclosed.

Referring to Aston Villa they say the speculation nine years ago that they were bidding to take control of the Birmingham premiership club was “utter rubbish”.

“We never even attempted to buy Villa,” says Luke. “I was finishing up in the office one Friday evening, at about 5pm. A supposedly very wealthy group came in. We didn’t know them, we just knew one or two of the ‘smaller’ people in the group. They asked would we sell the UK version of our company. We said , ‘It’s very short notice’. They offered us a billion quid. They would pay us three quarters of a billion in cash and the rest we’d leave in for a year and manage it. Aston Villa was a public company, they would reverse our company into Villa - a reverse takeover. We said as long as you come up with a billion you could reverse us under a horse cart!”

The Comers called in their lawyers and signed a confidentiality agreement and then waited for the next step. Luke was watching the news on television on a Saturday night when it said that a UK property company was buying Aston Villa.

The Comers were having dealings with the multi millionaire property baron Sean Mulryan at the time, according to Luke. “We had one or two sites we were taking and we had a bit of a row over one site. When I heard the news I said it must be Mulryan. But then on the main news it said Luke and Brian Comer had bought Aston Villa.”

The announcement came as a surprise to many but as a huge shock to the Comers. “It was absolute rubbish, it was totally untrue. We had no intention of buying it. We had enough to do with our racehorses.”

“If you put racehorses to bed at night, they stay in it, not like the players,” quips Brian with a mischevious grin.

Luke says “that was all there was to” the Villa takeover speculation. “These guys never came up with the three-quarters of a billion. They came back to us trying to do a different deal but we weren’t interested. We have a reputation of never messing about if we make a commitment. We knew we never committed to buying it [Villa].”

* Read next week’s issue to find out the secret of the Comer’s success, how they lost 30 million sterling on the stock market one night in 2009, how they refuse to travel first class and how they got their first real taste of money when they earned £700 a week each as teenagers plastering in the late 1970s.

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