THEY say you never see a poor bookie – but you rarely see one with a £170m fortune and an amazing art collection.
Meet Joe Donnelly and his elegant wife Marie again, who could be a big hit at the Cheltenham Festival once again with their superstar flagship stables.
Family familiar names like Champion Chase favorite Shishkin, Al Boum Photo Gold Cup winners and Melon chance Ryanair are just a few.
But for all their success on the track, the pair have made their fortune – or at least partially – out of it.
Just over 15 years ago, the couple moved to France after earning a package from the sale of a building found in Paris’ Champs-Elysees, which is believed to be where Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana were staying before the crash their fatal car accident.
Joe started his life as a bookie, before making millions and investing his money in art.
For a time he owned a gallery in Ireland, although it was said to be unvisitable – only the elite were allowed in.
But it does feature works by world-renowned artists, including Picasso and Matisse now in his Dublin home.
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This is a man who values his privacy very much.
Back in the 1990s, Donnelly was an influential bookie.
He is president of the National Association of Betting Manufacturers of Ireland and a two-time board member of the Horse Racing Authority of Ireland, prior to Horse Racing Ireland.
And he takes real pride in his profession, passing on his knowledge to punters in a recognized simple style that has captivated admirers.
However, despite his quiet demeanor, he knows when to stand up for his rights.
An example of a tougher character emerged in Leopardstown in 1995, when on-site betting shops were introduced and their modus operandi was questioned.
Donnelly has managed to stop shops from accepting single bets at a home meeting, after receiving support for strike action from INBA members.
But the seeds of a more artistic life were planted by his wife.
A decade before Joe made a name for himself as a bookmaker, the family moved to Dublin.
There, they became synonymous with the capital’s artistic and cultural world and supported local charities.
Marie helped found the Irish Hospice Foundation in 1986, before joining its board three years later and becoming president in 1997.
She has set up a fundraiser called the Whoseday Project and has raised more than £2 million.
Friends including poet Seamus Heaney and artist Louis Le Brocquy assisted in her search.
Before long, Donnellys was a royal in Dublin.
Their house is, in and of itself, a work of art. Carved into a hillside in Killiney, an affluent suburb close to the city, it has sea views.
It now boasts an art collection dominated by international artists, after one art gallery closed.
The works of Matisse and Picasso are complimented by works by Willem de Kooning, Julian Schnabel and Georg Baselitz – with a collection’s worth of numbers that can’t be faulted.
Regarded as major players in the art world, both Joe and Marie have appeared on the International Board of the Tate Gallery, as well as the international panel of the New York Museum of Modern Art.
However, they also have a preference for investing in real estate.
Back in 2005, Joe bought a building considered the most beautiful avenue in the world, the Champs-Elysees.
This place not only owns a Cartier store frequented by the rich and famous, above are apartments worth millions of dollars because of its lavish location.
In 1997, before Donnellys registered interest, that was where Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana were before they lost their lives in a car crash.
Reportedly, when the deal was completed about eight years later, their belongings were still at the residence.
“It’s like a temple with all his clothes, jewelry and other things still intact,” a source told The Times.
“After the deal closed, his father got rid of everything. Donnellys bought it as an investment with the intention of selling off all the apartments.”
A year later, Joe moved the building for an undisclosed amount.
Now, in the race, he holds his trump card.
Before Cheltenham, his horse Shishkin was a favorite for the Champion Chase race.
You won’t skip Donnellys to cheer on the winner… inconspicuously, of course.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/4885874/cheltenham-festival-shishkin-owner-joe-donnelly/ Racecourse books for art collectors worth £170m