Ben Dunne (entrepreneur)

Ben Dunne (born 3 March 1949) is an Irish businessman. Former director of his family firm, Dunnes Stores, one of the largest chains of department stores in Ireland, he now owns a chain of fitness centres established by his company Barkisland Developments Limited.

Ben Dunne
Bernard Dunne

(1949-03-03) 3 March 1949 (age 72)
Cork, Ireland
Parent(s)Ben Dunne and Nora Maloney
RelativesMargaret Heffernan (sister)


Ben Dunne was born in Cork on 3 March 1949 to Nora Maloney and Ben Dunne, a business man who founded Dunnes Stores. He was the last of six children.

In 1981, he was kidnapped by the IRA and held for seven days. He was released unharmed.[3]

In 1992, he was arrested for cocaine possession and soliciting while on a golf holiday in Florida, USA.[4] His arrest triggered the end of his leadership of Dunnes Stores, as family turmoil led to control falling to his sister Margaret Heffernan and the company paying IR£100 million for Ben Dunne's share of the business.

He was again embroiled in scandal in the mid-1990s when it emerged he had given large amounts of money to a number of Irish politicians, mainly from the Fianna Fáil party including the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. He also gave money to Michael Lowry of Fine Gael. Mr Justice Brian McCracken, sole member of The McCracken Tribunal which was established by the Irish Government in 1997, found that Dunne knowingly assisted Lowry in evading his tax obligations.[5] On 22 March 2011, the Moriarty Tribunal concluded of Ben Dunne's dealings with Michael Lowry that "What was contemplated and attempted on the part of Mr Dunne and Mr Lowry was profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking": the report referring to its finding Lowry sought to influence a rent review of a building part-owned by Dunne.

He now owns a chain of fitness centres called Ben Dunne Gyms located in Dublin and Liverpool,[6] which he personally promotes on radio, using recent Irish advertising legislation which allows direct comparisons to named competitors. Dunne was working on a new health club, to open in Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, but abandoned the project due to complaints from local residents.[7]

In April 2005 he paid £3,000,000 for a 21-acre (85,000 m2) site in Motspur Park, New Malden (South London), former home of BBC Football Club and other BBC sports facilities. His intent was to apply for planning permission to build a leisure and fitness centre, but he did not do so. Instead, in February 2008, his company Barkisland Developments Limited submitted a planning application to the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council for change of use of the sports ground to a cemetery.[8] The application to change the former BBC Sports Ground into a cemetery was withdrawn on 3 October 2008. It had become clear that planning permission was likely to be refused. Objections were lodged by many local residents, sports clubs, Sport England and the Mayor of London.[9]


  1. Dunne, Jim. "Dunnes battle led to Lowry's longest day". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  2. "Ben Dunne's fitness firm looks healthy". Irish Independent. 8 June 2005. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  3. Ireland's richest businessmen victims of 1980s kidnap epidemic Archived 15 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Paul T. Colgan, The Sunday Business Post, 22 September 2002, Retrieved 3 March 2009
  4. "How the truth emerged after one hellish night in the life of Ben Dunne". Irish Independent. 7 July 2002. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 15 June 2006.
  5. "Moriarty Tribunal Terms of Reference". Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 28 August 2006.
  6. "Ben Dunne Gyms show €1.7m profit". Irish Examiner. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  7. Murphy, Cormac (15 April 2010). "Dunne bows to people power over gym plan". Herald. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  8. "Anger at cemetery plans". Retrieved 12 August 2008.
  9. "Application withdrawn". Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2008.