Photographer Ita West was at GVM Group CEO PJ Buckley’s retirement party at the Castle Oaks House Hotel in Castleconnell – For more photos click next
When PJ Buckley took over as CEO of the GVM Group in 2000, the company’s net assets were €5 million.
Now that he is retiring to his home town of Grenagh, Co Cork, there are net assets of £29million and strong earnings.
“I’m proud of the way the company is today. I’m proud that we managed to launch the 60-year story, which we did in 2017. I think it was an important and appropriate tribute to all those, especially in the early years, who worked for put society on the road.
“I’m proud of the huge investment in the markets over the past few years. I am particularly pleased that we have upgraded our offices and also built our central area in Kilmallock,” said Mr Buckely, who doesn’t hesitate when things don’t go to plan.
He joined GVM in 1992 as financial controller. When he succeeded Tom Nelligan as CEO in 2000, the company was involved in markets, property auctioning, an investment in Limerick Radio and NCT centres. Mr. Buckley felt the company needed to continue to expand and diversify.
“We started exporting cattle to Italy and Spain in 1999. For a number of reasons it was not successful, it wasted money and it cost me a lot of hassle and gray hair for many years. It was not a good start,” said Mr Buckley, who is married to Kathleen and they have two children – Christopher and Aileen.
GVM Exports went into liquidation and the appointed liquidator was Willie Carey. Despite the setback, plans for diversification continued – investment in Shannon, office property in Rathkeale and Cork City, planning application for housing in Kilmallock, for a shopping center in Rathkeale, wind power.
“As we know, you can have all the plans in the world, but while you’re busy making plans, something else can pop up to bite you. One of those things was foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, where the markets were closed for four months and cost us €700,000.” In 2004 there was a pot of around €2 million from the sale of land with planning in Kilmallock and a part in Limerick Radio.
“We were hearing about big comebacks in Poland and David Naughton, who was vice-chairman and also a member of Limerick County Council, had connections in Poland. I talked to Willie Carey, whom I had known quite well since the liquidation of GVM Exports, and Willie put us in touch with E&Y in Poland and its property manager Jim Foley. We told Jim that we had 2 million euros to invest. We ended up buying a property for €9 million, our Decathlon building which we still own and which has been very successful.
Neighboring Germany was next. In two years, they had bought 30 million euros worth of property in several cities. It was quite a leap from the original plan of buying a €2 million property in Poland.
“And then in 2008/2009, another one of those unforeseen events loomed up to bite you – the financial crash. It was not a good time to be heavily borrowed, especially when your bank – AIB at the time – was looking for money. money wherever she could get it. There followed a couple of pretty tough and stressful years. During that time, we had to listen to malicious rumors that our checks might not clear. I had to ride on the Kilmallock Tribune to assure farmers that they would be paid for their cattle.
“In those two years we closed our mart in Rathkeale and sold all our properties there and also sold our mart in Sixmilebridge. We finally sold our wind power in 2011 and got rid of the bank. As part of this rationalization, he descended the court of Kilmallock and took an active part in the management of the market. Mr Buckely gave a superb speech at his retirement party at the Castle Oaks House Hotel. He mentioned many people he worked with over the years, which I won’t repeat for fear of missing someone, but as the saying goes, they know who they are.
Mr Buckley is also fond of sayings and quotes and has tried to follow the motto of Horace Plunkett, founder of the co-operative movement, ‘Tomorrow’s work will largely consist of today’s impossible’.
” This has not been easy. Society has changed tremendously over the past 22 years. Change is not easy; it was difficult for everyone, but I don’t regret anything. I’m sorry some things didn’t go as planned, but you’ll never be 100% successful.”