The man who sold everything: tributes paid upon death of renowned estate agent Robert Ganly

Robert Ganly

Robert Ganly bought back his old firm and later joined Sherry FitzGerald. Photo: Shane O'Neill / Fennells

Mark Keenan

He sold almost everything from livestock to top-end homes, as well as shops, castles and even remote islands.

One of Ireland’s best known auctioneers, Robert Ganly, has passed away suddenly at his Dublin home at the age of 66.

A larger-than-life character, Ganly was one of the leading lights in Irish estate agency and among the property business’s most recognised personalities. While best known for selling country estates and farms, in his almost 50-year career he was also a noted auction block salesman with a distinctive patter that never failed to entertain.

Considered one of the last great mavericks of the business, Ganly will also be remembered as a supremely talented raconteur. While always dapperly dressed, he was equally at home showing a suburban Dublin luxury home as a farm in rural Ireland.

He attended St Columba’s College in Rathfarnham, obtained his auctioneering qualification from the Rathmines College and started his career in 1973, working cattle marts under the guidance of his father Robert senior, ‘Bobby’ Ganly, in a family line of auctioneers that goes back to 1847. His firm Ganly Walters built significant niches in the Irish property market over two decades, in country estates and luxury homes. Ganly managed to grow a recognised brand when larger networks were pushing out middle to small sized operators.

He famously sold his own firm on the eve of the Irish property crash to the British-owned Knight Frank for a sum reported at the time to be just shy of €10m. Through the leaner years here, he was employed by the international network which made good use of his Irish contacts.

On the cusp of the recovery, he bought his old firm back for a much-reduced amount, said to have been “hundreds of thousands”.

With investment from a new business partner, Karen Erwin (formerly of Goodbodys), the new Ganly Walters scaled up rapidly with a strong involvement in commercial property, country homes, luxury homes and a foray into ‘monster’ auctions.

A new brand, GW2, was launched to help the firm move into the middle and lower end of the market.

Big sales included Tulira Castle, Galway, for €5.8m; and Ganly’s versatility was highlighted by two record sales in 2017 when he sold Dane’s Hollow, the Howth mansion owned by Moya Doherty and John McColgan for €8m, and Westport House and its rural estate in Co Mayo for €5.5m.

When the business partnership broke up, Ganly surprised everyone by joining Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes in 2018 where he settled in seamlessly. A former colleague from Ganly Walters said at the time: “They’d much rather have Robert Ganly on board than work against him.”

He also worked to improve standards Irish estate agency business in Ireland through his efforts with the Irish Auctioneers & Valuers Institute (IAVI) of which he became president.

He was involved in the international estate agency body FIABCI and was one of the first Irish estate agents to build a serious foreign contacts book. Aside from Knight Frank, he worked with big international names such as Strutt & Parker and King Sturge. And he still found time for sport like vintage car rallying, fly fishing and shooting.

“Robert and his wife Sandra were a team in everything they did and he adored her. Robert was brim full of ideas and enthusiasm and loved making a deal,” long-time colleague Roseanne De Vere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald said.

“When all around him just couldn’t see a way through, Robert could always find a way. He had an unusual gift for leaving both the vendor and the buyer happy. All of us who worked with him over the years learned so, so much from him. He’s going to be missed so much.”

Sherry FitzGerald said: “After many successful years running his own practice, Ganly Walters, Robert joined our Country Homes team, bringing with him his vast knowledge and impeccable credentials, which you could say were instrumental in our winning some of the highest profile sales. Held in high esteem, he will be missed greatly the Country Homes team and all his colleagues at Sherry FitzGerald.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sandra, children Rachel, Hannah and Jonathan.”

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