Private Equity

Private equity is a fast-growing source of alternative funding in the Irish market and the recent track record of successful exits has made it more accessible and attractive to owners and management teams seeking capital. 

Cardinal launched Ireland’s first and largest mid-market private equity buyout fund in 2013 – the €292m Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI) Fund. The Carlyle Cardinal Ireland Fund (CCI) is a joint venture between Cardinal and the Carlyle Group to invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and mid-market businesses in Ireland. CCI is Ireland’s largest private equity investment fund dedicated to investing in Irish companies. CCI benefits from a combination of Cardinal’s experience, relationships and local knowledge together with Carlyle’s global track record.

Investment Strategy

The objective of CCI is to generate capital appreciation through equity investments in high growth SME and mid-market companies on the island of Ireland. We are particularly interested in talking to founder owners, family businesses and management teams of large corporates (MBO/carve-outs) seeking capital for expansion and/or liquidity. CCI seeks to invest between €5 million to €50 million of equity in each transaction with the ability to source co-investment partners for investment requirements above this level. The key attributes of investee companies include:

  • Proven track record and targeted growth ambitions
  • Experienced and committed management
  • Strong product offering and competitive market position
  • Profitable and cash generative
  • Opportunity for CCI to enhance shareholder value through its access to capital, global partnerships and industry relationships

CCI Competitive Advantage

CCI is a compelling partner for Irish companies, driving growth through our;

  • Scale as Ireland’s largest private equity investment fund we have the size and scope to provide both initial and follow-on capital to support organic and inorganic initiatives;
  • Dedicated Irish based investment team providing strategic, financial and operational bandwidth to support management in defining and achieving their long-term goals;
  • Unrivalled local and international industry contacts to help companies grow both in the Irish market and globally;
  • Track record of successful investments domestically and internationally; and
  • International network of investor and banking relationships which provides access to further capital as required

Current Portfolio Companies

Carroll Cuisine

Established in 1979 Carroll Cuisine is Ireland's leading producer and distributor of branded cooked deli ham, branded and private label pre-packed sliced meats, chilled ready meals and other chilled food products. Carroll Cuisine is associated with quality Irish produce and is one of the best known brands in the Irish chilled foods category.


Leading provider of multi-channel consumer payments in Ireland. With 11,800 points of sale across over 7,000 merchants Payzone has the largest physical terminal retail payments network in Ireland.


Abtran is a market leading customer and business process management (“BPM”) service provider in Ireland. It provides customer-facing, back office, voice and non-voice services to a range of blue-chip clients across the public and private sectors in Ireland and the UK.

Learning Pool

Leaning Pool is Northern Ireland’s largest e-learning company. Founded in Derry in 2006 Learning Pool delivers a one-stop-shop solution for organisations seeking consistent and cost effective online learning services to train their employees

AA Ireland

AA Ireland is Ireland’s major motoring organisation and one of the country’s leading consumer service businesses. It specialises in Motor, Home and Travel insurance and provides breakdown assistance for people on the road and in the home.

Sam McCauley Chemists

Sam McCauley Chemists is Ireland’s leading independent retail pharmacy group with 30 stores and almost 600 employees nationwide. The award-winning company is one of the best recognised retail pharmacy brands in Ireland with a customer-led Health, Wellness and Beauty focus offering a unique combination of prestige products and services.

Exited Investments 

Lily O’Brien’s

Lily O’Brien’s (Lily’s) is an Irish manufacturer of premium chocolates and desserts located in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. In January 2018, CCI agreed the sale of Lily O'Brien's to Colian Holdings SA for €40 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis.


Leading independent Irish company operating in the secure logistics sector. In March 2018 CCI agreed the sale of its shareholding in GSLS to STAR Capital.

Case Study

Lily O’Brien’s

Lily O’Brien’s (Lily’s) is an Irish manufacturer of premium chocolates and desserts located in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. 

Founded in 1992 from her kitchen in Kildare, Mary Ann O’Brien has grown Lily’s into a global brand name in premium chocolates and desserts. As well as a burgeoning online business, Lily’s also supplies branded products to many high street retailers and airlines. 

Since investing in Lily’s, CCI actively assisted management grow the business. Production capacity at the Newbridge plant has almost doubled following a capex investment programme identified as part of CCI’s initial investment. Furthermore, CCI are actively assisted with the creation of revenue opportunities through linking Lily’s management to customers, companies and individuals across the Carlyle and Cardinal networks. Lily’s today employs 120 people at its Newbridge plant and generated revenues of almost of €30 million in 2017.

In January 2018, CCI agreed the sale of Lily's to Colian Holdings SA, for €40 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis. Colian Holdings SA is listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (COL:WSE) and is a Polish producer and distributor of food products in the confectionery, culinary products and beverage sectors.