Business Irish

Tuesday 17 September 2019

'I like a challenge but I’m not a masochist' - businessman McGann on his work ethic

Gary McGann. Photo: Bloomberg
Gary McGann. Photo: Bloomberg

As one of Ireland's most seasoned business veterans, Gary McGann is known for his stellar work ethic.

And at 69 years of age, he is still a major player in Ireland's corporate scene. Currently the chairman of Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment, he is also the chairman of Swiss-Irish food company Aryzta.

At Aryzta, which owns the Cuisine de France brand, Mr McGann has been drawing on all his years of experience to help thrash the group back into shape after years of turmoil.

He was appointed chairman to the troubled food group in 2016. Asked earlier this year if he would have taken on the role had he known the full extent of Aryzta's problems, Mr McGann said he is not certain he would have.

"I like a challenge, but I'm not a masochist," he said. "I'd like to think I'd be 'Braveheart' and go in, but honestly I don't know."

Mr McGann grew up in Dublin, with his parents having moved to the city from the west of Ireland.

His father worked at Independent News & Media, while his mother was a nurse. He attended a Christian Brothers school on Parnell Street. He received his degree from University College Dublin in 1973, while working in the civil service.

The 2005 merger of Jefferson Smurfit with Kappa, and the later stock market flotation of Smurfit Kappa, certainly proved to be among the biggest challenges for Mr McGann.

"At the time of the merger in 2005 I worked non-stop for about seven months," he told the Tax Appeals Commission.

"When I was working on Saturdays and Sundays, Mr D [the Madison Dearborn executive] would regularly ring me out of solidarity.

"I remember that during the merger discussions, I went to Hawaii with the whole family on a holiday that had been planned a long time previously. It was to celebrate my wife's birthday," he said.

"As a result of it being during merger discussions, I arranged to have a separate room which served as my office with computers/printers etc, so that I could work European times.

"Most of this holiday was given over to the merger discussions," he said.

The private equity firms invested $450m (€409m) in Smurfit Kappa and exited with a $350m profit. Today, Smurfit Kappa remains one of the biggest packaging groups in the world, with a €7.2bn market capitalisation.

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