The cancellation of a lavish lunch for 500 guests at Punchestown racecourse last April – to celebrate Ballymore Properties’ 25th anniversary – was the first indication that even Seán Mulryan was feeling the pinch; some of the company’s staff were being laid off and it just wouldn’t have been appropriate to be quaffing champagne. Before then, Ballymore was flying high as one of Europe’s largest developers, with a development programme worth £15 billion in Britain, Ireland and central Europe. At the peak of the property boom, it was developing 18,000 homes and some four million sq ft of commercial space in Britain alone; notably in London’s Docklands. These include such spectacular schemes as Ontario Tower and Pan Peninsula, within walking distance of Canary Wharf. Many of Ballymore’s customers were bonus-rich bankers looking for city pads or “buy to let” investors from Ireland – although many of them are now finding it difficult to complete their purchases due to the credit crunch. Last November, the Sunday Times reported that Mulryan had sold half of his 50 racehorses, put his two helicopters up for sale and was now sharing his executive jet with Johnny Depp. Earlier, Ballymore had to shelve plans to build Europe’s tallest residential building in Manchester and turn the site into a car park, until the economy picks up.