Our 9 favourite business stories of the year

We take a look back at some personal highlights from Fora for 2016.

By Peter Bodkin Editor, Fora

WITH 2016 WINDING down, it’s natural to get a little nostalgic for the year that will soon be behind us.

While there were plenty of major events – (yes, I’m looking at you Brexit, Apple) - making the headlines in business news, it’s not always the big stories that stay with their authors the longest.

From worthy issues to memorable interviewees, these are our favourite business stories of the year, as chosen by the team at Fora:

A US pharma giant accused of gouging patients for drugs paid no tax on billion-euro Irish profits

Paul O’Donoghue - The article highlighted a subject and the dealings of a company that I don’t think a lot of people would have been aware of, but I think they should. The HSE is charged a huge amount to buy HIV medicine produced by Gilead, and the company likely has billions of euro sitting offshore via an Irish company.

I broke down exactly how the company used Irish law to avoid large amounts of tax, and hopefully explained it in a way that was fairly easy to read without too much jargon.

Ryanair’s head of technology thinks Big Data is ‘wank’

Killian Woods - It’s probably pretty obvious why this story sticks out for me as a memorable one from 2016.

Normally, when a chief technical officer from any company starts talking about ‘big data’ at a conference, it is difficult to keep both eyes open, but add Ryanair into the mix and it suddenly gets a bit interesting.

‘I’m all the time on duty – I’m like a little angel looking after people’

Conor McMahon - Ireland’s most famous – and perhaps fussiest – hotelier, Francis Brennan, shared the secrets to running a five-star business.

Brennan was guaranteed to be a hoot and the interview ran way over time because every answer was punctuated with a wild anecdote.

Still a football pitch after five years: The sorry history of the Cork Science Park

Paul O’Donoghue - This one seemed to sum up a lot of problems of the Irish planning system.

The Cork Science Park was meant to be a tech hub for the Rebel County, an answer to Dublin’s Silicon Docks. Unfortunately the project has been tangled up in red tape for years, and this piece gives the inside story as to what happened, and how a short strip of road is holding the whole multimillion-euro project up.

Inside the top-secret Irish project some of tech’s biggest names are cooking up

Killian Woods - It’s nice to be the first to cover a story, so getting a behind-the-scenes look at what Eamon Leonard’s new startup, Cohort, is cooking up in a small loft in Temple Bar was a pleasure.

He is essentially building a new app that will be a better version of LinkedIn, and I wouldn’t bet against him taking his competition down a peg or two.

You can now exchange your leftover foreign coins for duty free vouchers at Irish airports

Conor McMahon – I spoke to Lukas Decker, founder of travel tech startup Coindrum, about how he planned to drive footfall for airport retailers with Coindrum units, machines that allow air passengers to dump unwanted foreign coins in exchange for duty free vouchers worth 10% more than the cash value.

I thinks it’s a really clever idea: the machines are maintained by existing infrastructure, consumers get more bang for the buck, duty free shops get more customers in the door, and Coindrum piggybacks off retailers, rather than going through airport authorities.

Former Clerys CEO: ‘Faced with the same choice, I would still sell the store’

Paul O’Donoghue - It’s almost a year and a half now since Clerys was shut in one of the coldest moves I’ve seen in Irish business, and I think it’s important to remember the closure and the people who were caught up in it.

Here I talked to PJ Timmins, who was CEO of the iconic department store during the boom years and was at the helm when it first ran into trouble. He gives some good insight as to why he ran the company the way he did and how he feels about everything, looking back.

Despite millions put into the Wild Atlantic Way it took a 767 to put this Sligo town on the map

Killian Woods – I find the best business stories are always those that have a bit of a character behind them – and David McGowan is one hell of a character. The funeral director from Sligo hit the headlines a few times this year after he bought an old Boeing 767 and caused traffic jams up and down the country shipping it to his ‘glamping’ site in Enniscrone.

It might look like just a PR stunt to many people, so it was nice to get the story about how McGowan plans to make a fully fledged business out of glamping.

A Kenmare seafood firm may rebrand for the US – because its name is slang for cannabis

Conor McMahon - Kenmare mussels farm Kush Shellfish found itself with an unusual problem when it looked to enter the US seafood market: it discovered that ‘kush’ is a common term for cannabis in the States.

Company boss John Harrington was good-humoured about the whole situation and had a right laugh at his own bad luck.

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