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Obituary: Robin Power – Colourful property developer who bounced back from financial ruin logo 23/04/2023 Liam Collins

Robin Power, who has died at the age of 80, was described as “the most audacious property player” of his generation, developing landmark buildings in Dublin, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere before his empire came crashing down in the mid-1990s.

He and his second wife Michele Kavanagh then reinvented themselves as low-profile property investors along Dublin’s “gold coast”, stretching from Sandycove to Dalkey, where they built up a valuable portfolio of high-end trophy homes, which were let to executives and diplomats.

Father-of-six Robert Raphael Power was born in 1943 and grew up in MacCurtain Street, Cork. His father died when he was three and he left school at 16 and qualified as a dentist at University College Cork. His daughter Rachel told his funeral mass that he supported himself by running student dances at the Arcadia ballroom and playing poker. He was said to have driven a better car than most of the professors.

He swam at Sunday’s Well, and at the age of 15 won the Liffey Swim, an achievement of which he was immensely proud.

The purchase of a restaurant building in Paul Street, Cork, in 1973 ignited his love of property development.

He converted it into three separate units and went on to develop the Savoy Centre and the Victoria Hotel.

He moved to Dublin after his first marriage ended and established himself on the property scene.

After acquiring a property portfolio, Power launched the public company Power Corp. with a board of high profile directors and bought himself the first of his many Rolls-Royce cars.

His proudest achievement was the development of the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in central Dublin.

He was also involved in the development of the St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre and the landmark IBI Building at Leeson Street Bridge.

As chairman and chief executive of Power Corp he travelled extensively making a series of international acquisitions with high profile partners. These included the Trocadero Centre in central London with George Walker, a project in New York with Donald Trump and the redevelopment of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where US presidential candidate Robert Kennedy had been assassinated.

Power eschewed publicity but bought himself a trophy home in Killiney’s “millionaires’ row”, Sorrento Terrace, and a holiday home in Beaver Creek, Colorado, after his marriage to Michelle Kavanagh in New York in December, 1990.

Power had tapped a syndicate of banks in Ireland, the UK and Europe, to fund his lavish spending spree but a downturn in the property market in the mid-1990s, led to his business collapsing and the resignation of himself and his wife from the board.

The value of the company plunged from an estimated £250m (€280m) to just £2m, and after two rescue attempts failed it went into liquidation with debts of £190m.

This did not deter the couple from embarking on a new property plan, buying up Victorian villas in prestigious locations around south Dublin, before property there became unaffordable to most.

One of them was reportedly sold for more than €10m in recent years.

“My father saw opportunities in everything” his daughter Rachel said at his funeral mass in the Church of Assumption, Dalkey.

“His mind never stopped and he was still scouring the property pages looking for good deals” until shortly before his death, she said.

“He was a great storyteller and never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” she said.

Robin Power died on April 14 after a long battle with cancer.

He is survived by his wife and children Robin, Ronan, Ross, Richard, Rachel and Kate.

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