Businessman Ben Dunne dies aged 74 in Dubai

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Ben Dunne outside his Ben Dunne Gym at Westpoint in Blanchardstown.

Ben Dunne

Ben Dunne, the colourful giant of Irish business, has died in Dubai at the age of 74.

Mr Dunne died while on a trip to the United Arab Emirates, it is understood.

Last night, Ben’s son Robert paid tribute to his father saying: “I’m going to miss him in a way I can’t even describe in words.

‘My dad is dead. He had a massive heart attack and just didn’t make it. Simple as that. Overall, in the final analysis, he was a good and decent man,”

The Department of Foreign Affairs told the Sunday Independent this afternoon it was “aware of the death of an Irish citizen in Dubai”.

Born in Cork as the youngest of six children in 1949, Mr Dunne started out working for the Dunnes Stores family business founded by his father, also named Ben, with its ubiquitous St Bernard brand.

In 1981 he was kidnapped and held for a week by the IRA, until a £1m ransom was paid.

His leadership of Dunnes Stores ended after the scandal in which he was arrested for cocaine possession in the company of an escort while on a golf holiday in Florida in 1992.

His sister Margaret Heffernan then took the helm at the firm.

That would also eventually lead to revelations of secret payments to politicians including former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey.

Mr Dunne went on to rebuild his reputation and founded the successful Ben Dunne chain of gyms.

Mr Dunne was a hugely flamboyant and popular character over many decades, and as word of his passing began to emerge yesterday, the news was met with shock and sadness.

He lived in Castleknock in Dublin with his wife Mary. The couple had four children.

Mr Dunne will be remembered as a mercurial businessman, who was sensationally caught with cocaine and prostitutes in an Orlando Hotel in Florida while on a golf trip with a group of Irish friends.

The fallout would lead to the McCracken Tribunal report and the long-running Moriarty Tribunal that led to the ruination of reputations in politics, business, and Ireland’s gilded social circles.


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