A fresh-thinking business pioneer who changed the way we eat with Roma Foods, writes Rory Egan
Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00
Paddy Meade, one of the pioneering figures of Ireland's business world, has died. The former chairman and CEO of Roma Foods and owner of the Graham O'Sullivan restaurants brought an air of fresh thinking into an emerging Irish economy.
He was born on July 6, 1935, to the well known St Vincent's Hospital surgeon Harry Meade and his wife Avice. He was sent to boarding school at a young age to the Jesuit-run Stonyhurst in Lancashire where his love of learning was first kindled in a school that can boast three saints in their alumni.
He went on to study Agricultural Science in the University of Aberdeen, which he represented at both rugby and tennis in his spare time.
In 1952 his father died and after spending some time in Ireland with his family, Patrick moved to America where he realised Ireland was many years behind the US in a number of things.
He was fascinated by the variety of foods available to the average American. What amazed him most was that pasta was the third most popular food in the world and Ireland had hardly heard of it.
When he arrived home six months later he was introduced to Antonio Nico, an Italian who had started to make his own pasta and sell it to the shops of Dublin.
Together with his brother Felim, Patrick invested in, and took over as, Managing Director of the Dublin Macaroni Company in Blessington Street. Soon Patrick changed the name to Roma Foods and one of the most successful food businesses in the country was born.
Many people come up with good business ideas but only a few have the know-how to market them properly.
Patrick's genius was to have a long-term plan. He credited three things to his initial success. First, he needed to show the Irish shopper how easy it was to cook pasta so he had demonstrators going around to every shop that sold his products.
Patrick grew the business into one of the largest and most successful manufacturers and distributors of food in Ireland and the UK. He exported to many other countries and once even sold rice to the Chinese.
Before he finally sold Roma Foods to the Allegro group, he took over a small restaurant in Dublin on the corner of Duke St and Dawson Street called Graham O'Sullivan's in 1972. With his usual enthusiasm, business acumen and over all marketing ability, he had soon extended and also built it up into a chain of 14 restaurants.
In 1980 he joined the Executive Education Programme at Harvard Business School and returned there on a regular basis. He worked hard to try and get Ireland to raise its game on the international front. He was a leading figure in the Confederation of Irish Businesses and the Small Firms Association.
He was an extremely popular member of a number of Dublin clubs -- Milltown Golf Club, Clontarf Rugby Club and Fitzwilliam Tennis Club, where he was known affectionately as 'The Chairman'.
He was delighted to be asked to sit on the board of St Vincent's Hospital, where his father worked for many years, and put an enormous amount of work into championing their new private hospital that will be finished this year.
However, if asked what his proudest achievement was, he would undoubtedly have talked of his family, which always came first in his life.
He married Denise O'Brien 50 years ago this year and he was already planning a very special cruise to celebrate the occasion. It was Denise who introduced Patrick to the art world in his later years and he became a great collector and, typically, a great supporter of young Irish artists.
They have four children; Jonathon, Patrick, Susan and Felim who is currently CEO of Graham O'Sullivan's, and five grandchildren; Benedicte, Harry, Tessa, Angus and Flora.
To his family, he was a giant of a man who can never be replaced. To his friends, and anyone who met him, he was sincere, courteous and would go out of his way to help you if he could.
He had a wonderful sense of humour and was never happier than when listening to someone's successes rather than telling others of his own. Patrick Meade was truly one of life's gentlemen in an age when the use of the term is becoming a much rarer thing.