The amateur status of the GAA and the ‘ownership’ of the Donegal team was temporarily lost in translation during Circet’s takeover of the KN Group.
With all roads leading to Clones this weekend, Donegal businessman Donagh Kelly has revealed how one of Europe’s leading telecoms infrastructure services companies temporarily assumed they were the new owners of the Donegal Gaelic football team.
The misunderstanding – which was revealed in the first of a new podcast series launched today by the Donegal Dublin Business Network – occurred after the Frosses entrepreneur completed the sale of his KN Group to French company Circet several years ago.
On a night in February, Kelly received an unexpected personal message from the owners of Circet via the business network LinkedIn. They were interested in buying the company the Donegal man had founded as a 23-year-old and subsequently built up into a significant telecoms player over the course of almost 30 years.
The businessman met two French counterparts in a London pub within days and, over a pint of beer and a steak pie, broad agreement on the massive transaction was swiftly reached.
The deal was completed in just six weeks, so fast in fact that the ownership of one potential asset – prominently associated with KN Network – was initially lost in translation.
“When we completed the deal with the French company, there were an awful lot of pictures in the media of the Donegal GAA team and they had the KN logo on their jerseys. The French were intrigued by this, and the profile of the team and sponsorship led to some incorrect assumptions.
“In the weeks after the completion, the Circet team approached me looking for some clarity and said: ‘Donagh, is it true that we actually own this football team?’ I had to explain to him that it wasn’t quite the Premiership and they soon grasped the true nature of the relationship.
“That said, Circet have been very supportive of our sponsorship of Donegal. We had them into Croke Park for a meeting and we arranged for Michael Murphy to come down and spend some time with them. We are now in our seventh year of supporting the senior team and we’ll be there again next year. Hopefully, the team and county will have some further success against a very strong Derry side in the Ulster Final on Sunday.”
The Donegal Dublin Business Network podcast featuring Donagh Kelly is presented by Ballyshannon-born public relations consultant and sports broadcaster Sean Perry.
The in-depth interview was edited and produced by Letterkenny man Lochlainn Harte. It can be accessed free-of-charge at Anchor.fm/ddbn and is available on both the Apple and Spotify platforms.
In his podcast, the 50-year-old Donegal businessman revealed his approach to business had changed quite significantly over time. He revealed that he harbored some regrets about the machine gun methods of his youth – “I’d mow down anyone who got in my way.”
“If I look back, it’s 30 years ago since I started the company and, sometimes, I can’t quite believe how determined I was. We all evolve, and I do have a little regret about how ruthless I was getting to the top. I was bull-headed and I probably treated certain people in a manner that I am not proud of. I look back at how I tackled certain situations and I think that I could have done it differently. But that all happened through ignorance – it was certainly not a calculated approach.”
Kelly is now a strong advocate of mentoring, which he undertakes within his own company and within the wider business world.
He told the DDBN podcast he really enjoyed interacting with younger people, sharing his experiences, insights, and learnings. “Now I spend quite a bit of time giving people advice, and that includes advice on how not to do it. I guess you can balance the scales somewhat in that way,” he added.
The Donegal entrepreneur encouraged people to make sure that, amid the pressures of work and fears about the future, they set time aside to ensure they enjoy life. An avid rally driver, he said he was not fearful of the sport’s obvious dangers even though he had suffered a very serious accident in the past.
“Both my kids compete in sports, in rallying and in horse-riding. There is risk involved but if you were to deny them that opportunity, something would be dramatically wrong. Life is for living, it’s not for sitting in an armchair. You don’t know how long you have in this world, and you’ve got to take every ounce out of it.”
The DDBN draws its membership from Donegal people (or those with Donegal links) based in Dublin. Anyone interested in joining the group should visit www.ddbn.ie for further details and to sign up.
Listen to the full Donagh Kelly DDBN podcast with Seán Perry at http://anchor.fm/ddbn