Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

How school dropout became a beef baron

Saddam Hussein. Photo: AP
Saddam Hussein. Photo: AP Newsdesk Newsdesk

At 15 years of age, Larry Goodman refused to return to school in Dundalk.

He had previously been made to kneel in front of his class by the Marist Fathers.

It was 1952, and Mr Goodman was already demonstrating a knack for business - and stubbornness.

Coupled with a tough work ethic (he was known to work Christmas Day to show dedication to customers in the Middle East), those attributes have held him in good stead through the decades.

With an estimated fortune of almost €800m, he and his family are now among Ireland's richest. His APB Food Group is the biggest privately-owned beef processor in Europe and he has an extensive property portfolio that includes the former Bank of Ireland HQ.

When he ditched school, Mr Goodman did a stint working for his father, a well-regarded cattle dealer.


Then he branched out on his own. His first business was collecting sheep-gut to sell as sausage skins. From that humble beginning, Mr Goodman was quickly becoming a force. He snapped up underperforming meat plants, sending in no-nonsense managers.

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By the '80s, Mr Goodman and his meat group were sailing on the crest of a wave. He had the ear of ministers, was a major employer - and he was a backer of Fianna Fáil - but there was a storm brewing far off on the horizon.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Mr Goodman's empire was suddenly on the precipice. And then it fell off.

He was the single biggest supplier of beef to Iraq, and when UN trade sanctions were imposed, it all but destroyed his business.

If that wasn't enough, the Beef Tribunal had been established in 1991. Mr Goodman continued to run the beef business even when it went outside his control. But in 1995, he pulled off an audacious move - buying back his company for just £30m.

He turns 79 next month - and clearly, he still has that fire in his belly.

Irish Independent