I published an article on Monday about the phenomenal success of Abbey Capital, the Dublin alternative fund manager. And throughout the week, I began thinking more and more about the low-profile, ultra-profitable business. Yes, I was intrigued by its massive profitability and the business structure that underpins it. However, I kept coming back to its corporate conscience and just how much of its wealth it devotes to charity.

To recap, Abbey Capital was founded in 2000 by Tony Gannon and Tim Brosnan and it specialises in futures funds, which are designed to profit from medium and long-term price trends in shares, bonds and commodities. And, over the last 20 years from its headquarters in inner-city Dublin, Abbey has developed sophisticated risk systems to analyse and monitor daily trades and position risk.

One wing of the company sells its funds to institutions and private clients. This division has performed exceptionally well. Pre-tax profits fluctuated between €10 and 13 million between 2018 and 2020, before spiking to €26 million in 2021.

The profits from this division allow the company to kick up a dividend to its parent, Cavendish Capital. This business uses those dividends to trade on its own behalf.

As I put it last week: “In essence, Abbey makes money from working with clients and then kicks up dividends to the parent, which trades its own money.”

The performance of Cavendish in 2021 was exceptional. Revenues increased from €39 million to €126 million. The company had been making profits of between €16 million and €20.5 million for the previous three years. In 2021, however, pre-tax profit shot up to €95 million. Yes, that’s right: €95 million.

What is really impressive, however, is the sustained flow of money from Cavendish and Abbey to its charitable foundations in Africa.

In 2021, Abbey donated €10.5 million to two separate charities connected to it: the Small Foundation and Long Term Foundation.

The 2021 donations bring the money given to the Small Foundation to more than €35 million. The foundation was established in 2007 and is run by Conor Brosnan, son of Abbey Capital co-founder Tim Brosnan. Its primary focus is “eliminating extreme poverty and hunger” from Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to its website, the Small Foundation “is working towards an ecosystem that ensures people living in rural poverty will be served by bankable, investable and sustainable MSMEs. Our work will focus on supporting intermediaries meeting the needs of MSMEs with high quality and appropriate services”.

During 2020, the Small Foundation provided direct financial support totalling €3,418,408 to 15 entities and €15,000 to one Irish entity, according to its annual report.

A decade after launching the Small Foundation, Gannon launched the Long Term Foundation to “support initiatives that seek to improve food security and nutrition, increase access to international markets, and create opportunities for small business development in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

The foundations work below the radar, and both are entirely funded through profits from Abbey. As outlined on the Long Term Foundation’s website: “There are no plans to fundraise now or in the future, but the Foundation hopes that, over time, as it develops a successful model to improve the livelihoods of those in abject poverty, it can encourage other foundations, and philanthropists, to invest alongside it.”

It is often easy to dismiss financiers and hedge fund managers are being motivated purely by the pursuit of profit. And sadly, far too many are.

But there are also individuals like Tony Gannon who combine the pursuit of profit with a broader societal agenda. In addition to the African foundations, Gannon has been involved in social justice programmes in Dublin’s inner city for almost 30 years on a voluntary basis and works with both the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Gorta Self Help Africa.

Many corporations talk a lot about community outreach and the broader sustainability agenda. However, it often seems like box-ticking efforts. Abbey Capital has proved, however, that capitalism can have a conscience.


Elsewhere, some of the details outlined in Rosanna’s report on a migrant fisherman working off the coast of Cork raised many questions. Mohammed Abbasy took a case against his former employer, Galley Marine Enterprises Ltd, for the underpayment of wages over a period of six months in 2016. In his evidence to the Labour Court, Abbasy said he was often required to work until 2.00 or 3.00am and the day’s work began again when the nets were shot for the first time at 4.20am.

His evidence was that he typically worked 17 hours a day and rested for four hours, although he was “liable” to be called on at any time by the skipper. The trips generally lasted between seven and 11 days.

Much of his evidence was rejected by his former employer, who argued that crew were able to get six hours’ rest a day and this was backed up by diaries kept by the skipper on board. They also said the trawler was generally out for five to seven days, rather than ten or 11.

A master mariner, who examined the Hannah J trawler’s maritime records, told the court that going by the working patterns of the trawler the workload inevitably amounted to a 17-hour day average and it was likely that on occasion the crew worked up to 19 hours or more. The Labour Court sided with Abbasy, and found he was underpaid by €6,139.65 It is a topic that we will be returning to.

We had a number of pieces connected to the Irish film and TV industry last week. Rosanna spoke to Jason Hariton of the MBS group, which is developing the new Greystones Media Campus. You might not have heard of the company – but you will. After all, it will soon control 87 per cent of Irish studio space. Hariton explained what it is bringing to the table.

Meanwhile, Lens Media set out to build world-class film and TV studios in Dublin to draw the best international talent. Now the firm is on a collision course with financiers and fears it will lose the ambitious multimillion-euro project. Francesca had the story.

Over two decades as a finance lawyer, Nollaig Murphy got closer and closer to the aviation industry. The opportunity between investors and owners of aircraft seeking buyers triggered his transformation into an entrepreneur. He spoke to Tom.