Sir Anthony O'Reilly Dies At 88 After Short Illness

Sir Anthony 'Tony' O'Reilly |

Irish businessman Sir Anthony 'Tony' O'Reilly has died after a short illness according to published reports. The husband of the late Lady Chryss O'Reilly who died last year, he was 88.

“In the coming days there will be many worthy tributes made to Tony O'Reilly's unique and extraordinary achievements in the fields of business and sport,” O'Reilly's family said in a statement. “As well as his extraordinary philanthropic vision which was best evidenced by the establishment of the Ireland Funds at a dark time in this island's history.

“But, for us, he was a dearly-loved dad and a grandad. He lived one of the great lives and we were fortunate to spend time with him in recent weeks as that great life drew to a close.”

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1936, O'Reilly became an international rugby star. He created the Kerrygold dairy company in 1962, while part of the Irish Dairy Board (Bord Bainne). Subsequently in charge of Irish Sugar, O'Reilly joined international food company Heinz in the 1969, later being named chairman of that company in 1987, which he remained until 1998. The proprietor of Castlemartin Stud from 1972 to 2014, he also took control of Independent Newspapers in 1973, which lasted until 2009.

Associated with Waterford Wedgwood group by 1990, among other varied business interests, O'Reilly also set up The Ireland Funds, which distributed money from U.S. donors into Irish border reconciliation projects. He was a noted philanthropist. O'Reilly was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 “for long and distinguished service to Northern Ireland”.

The businessman was declared bankrupt in 2015 when a €22.6-million debt judgement was leveled against him by the Allied Irish Banks, but he had emerged from bankruptcy by January of 2024. He is survived by his six children with his first wife, Susan Cameron, and their families.

Taoiseach Simon Harris called O'Reilly “a giant of sport, business, and media,” in a statement. “He was a trailblazer who aimed big on the international business scene. Through his work in the UK, US and Ireland he forged a path that many other international business figures from Ireland would follow…My thoughts are especially with his children and grandchildren at this sad time.”

“A legend of the game has passed,” Irish Rugby posted on X. “Our deepest sympathies to his family and friends. First capped at 18 he won 29 Irish Rugby caps and was a hero of the British & Irish Lions. Sir Anthony O'Reilly RIP.”

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