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Buddies Ed Sheeran and Russell Crowe back Irish whiskey distillery venture with Ronan Keating

Booze businesses have been a big winner for celebrities including Conor McGregor and George Clooney

Russell Crowe takes time out to have a pint on a visit to Kilkee, Co. Clare where he unveiled a statue of the late Richard Harris. Picture: Don Moloney/Press 22© Don Moloney

John MulliganIndependent.ie

International music star Ed Sheeran as well as Oscar winner Russell Crowe, British comedian Jimmy Carr and singer Ronan Keating have teamed up to back a new Irish distillery venture, the Irish Independent has learned.

The venture – MLM Distillery Investments, which is registered in Dublin - is also being supported by Noel Kelly, an agent for a raft of Irish celebrities.

They’re set to join a huge renaissance in the global popularity of Irish whiskey, which is now threatening Scotch for world domination of the market.

A large number of new distilleries have been established in Ireland over the past decade, with other celebrities such as Conor McGregor also getting involved in the sector with his Proper Twelve brand. Former Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll was an early backer of the Glendalough Distillery.

Ed Sheeran – whose drinking exploits with Russell Crowe are well documented – has topped the charts around the world for years with hits such as Galway Girl, Shape of You, and Perfect.

He has strong Irish links, with a number of first cousins from west Cork, while his aunt lives in Baltimore. He reportedly scouted the area earlier this year for a property while in Ireland to do gigs.

New Zealand-born Russell Crowe (58) grew up in Australia and won his Oscar for his best actor role in Gladiator in 2001. He’s been nominated for the best actor gong three times. He was in Dublin and Wicklow this summer filming a movie called The Pope’s Exorcist.

He and Ed Sheeran (31) have become unlikely pals despite the age gap between them.

'I've started hanging out with Russell Crowe because he loves getting drunk and I love getting drunk,” the singer told an Australian radio show in 2017.

'We don't get anything from each other, other than just a night out,” he said.

Comedian Jimmy Carr is a staple of the circuit in the UK and has hosted a number of popular shows on Channel 4.

Ronan Keating was one of five young men plucked from obscurity by impresario Louis Walsh in 1993 to create Boyzone. The group enjoyed huge popularity in the 1990s. He began his solo career in 1999, with his version of ‘You Say Nothing at All’ appearing in the hit movie Notting Hill, which starred Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

Company filings for the newly-formed MLM Distillery Investments seen by the Irish Independent show that Ed Sheeran and Russell Crowe each own 29pc of the company.

Jimmy Carr, Ronan Keating and Noel Kelly each own 14pc.

Mr Kelly is the managing director of the NK Management talent agency. It represents a large number of household Irish names such as Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny, Claire Byrne and Sonia O’Sullivan.

A celebrity endorsement of brands including alcoholic drinks can provide major sales lifts and even help the stars themselves make millions.

In 2017, actor George Clooney sold his tequila brand to Guinness owner Diageo for up to $1bn (€950m). He co-founded the Casamigos brand just four years earlier alongside Cindy Crawford’s husband, Rand Gerber, and property developer Mike Meldman.

Hollywood actor and director Liev Schreiber founded Sláinte Irish whiskey brand with drinks industry executive Richard Davies this year.

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