Billionaire John Collison to spend €6m on derelict Laois ‘doer-upper’ mansion
Stripe founder John Collison intends to spend €6m renovating a derelict property he bought from a local authority for just €400,000.
The technology billionaire said he would make the 9,000 square foot Millbrook House in Laois a “spectacular home” to be used for close family and friends visiting from across Ireland and the world.
The 32-year-old Collison – through one of his companies – was the successful bidder for the historic home after Laois County Council put the derelict Millbrook House up for sale last summer.
In a personal letter accompanying his bid, John Collison wrote: “We are already investing at the Abbeyleix Estate with a mindset of being stewards of this property for the coming generations.
“The Abbeyleix Estate is a keystone piece of Laois history and deserves careful guardianship. We would be delighted to extend this approach to Millbrook House and we hope our offer is of interest.”
Collison had already purchased Abbeyleix Estate, a mansion on 1,120 acres next door to the derelict property, for €11.5m last year.
According to the bid he submitted, his company Comhlacht na Feirme Ltd plans to commit €6m towards what was described as a “complete renovation and restoration”.
It explained how the three-storey house had fallen into “considerable disrepair” with the roof, walls, and window openings all badly deteriorated due to neglect and “intentional vandalism”.
It said: “The building is in immediate need of stabilisation and repair to halt decay and to prevent [the] further loss of historic fabric. Urgent measures are considered necessary.”
‘We are already investing at the Abbeyleix Estate with a mindset of being stewards of this property for the coming generations’
The bid said the existing roof was beyond repair and that a temporary roof would need to be erected above the building to protect its structure.
It said this would allow the building to dry out, so that safe access could be provided to carry out surveys to ensure a “historically accurate” reconstruction.
The bid said preliminary observations suggested there was also dry rot in the building, and that none of the timber was likely to be salvageable.
“As it currently stands, there are numerous partially collapsed timber floors visible internally with existing furniture and features hanging precariously from the upper levels.”
The Collison bid also noted that, because of their renovation works on the adjoining property on the Abbeyleix Estate, they had skilled workers ready to get to work on Millbrook House without “extensive delays” that might otherwise occur.
It said all remaining internal and external fabric would be carefully photographed and documented, while all joinery, fixtures and fittings would be “labelled and protected”.
The bid said: “The timescales from the grant of the planning permission to the completion of the project are 18 months.
“[Our architects] will ensure all repairs are undertaken by skilled heritage subcontractors, utilising appropriate materials and techniques. For areas where replacement components are required — such as where windows are missing or beyond repair, the contractor will be required to make replacements like-for-like.”
If the property is not protected within a ‘reasonable period of time’ it will be returned to the register of derelict sites
They also promised that Millbrook House, built in 1885, would never be allowed to fall into such disrepair again and that in future, regular inspections and necessary repairs would be done without delay.
An overview of costs said around €260,000 would be spent on emergency remedial works with almost €4m to be spent on the main restoration of the house.
A further €379,000 is to be spent renovating and refurbishing stables on the 1.7-hectare estate with around €84,000 to be paid for surveying and planning. A 5pc “inflation allowance” of €472,000 was also included in the bid, bringing it to a total of around €5.2m before Vat was included.
The bid also included an acknowledgement that if the property was not protected within a “reasonable period of time” that it would be returned to the register of derelict sites by the local authority.
Laois Co Council had originally refused to provide access to the winning bid following a request under FOI.
However, following an appeal to the Information Commissioner — as part of which the Collisons were consulted — the council agreed to release most of the record with only a small amount of personal information being withheld.