Business Irish

Saturday 14 December 2019

Michael Smurfit: The banking crisis wiped out my pension

Denis O'Brien (left) with Dr. Michael WJ Smurfit and Dermot Desmond (right), pictured at the launch Michael Smurfits autobiography
Denis O'Brien (left) with Dr. Michael WJ Smurfit and Dermot Desmond (right), pictured at the launch Michael Smurfits autobiography "A Life Worth Living", held in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School

Joyce Fegan

Leading businessman Dr Michael Smurfit has revealed his pension fund was wiped out in the economic crash.

He was speaking at the launch of his autobiography, 'A Life Worth Living', by Denis O'Brien and Dermot Desmond at the UCD Smurfit Business School in Blackrock, Co Dublin. The book took him four years to write.

The businessmen paid tribute to their 'mentor' who, they said, had given them both unwavering support and loyalty when they were beginning their careers.

The former chairman and CEO of Jefferson Smurfit Group, Ireland's first multinational company, revealed that he is now without a pension after the bank shares collapse in 2008.

"I lost a huge personal fortune in banking shares and my pension fund was in it. I don't have any pension fund left any more. It was in safe, secure bank shares," said Dr Smurfit.


However, he is now optimistic about Ireland's economic recovery and paid tribute to Finance Minister Michael Noonan. "I think he (Noonan) took over a very dodgy ship and has steered it into much calmer waters.

"I'm very happy that property value is beginning to improve and that unemployment is coming down.

"The last thing that needs to come back is consumer spending and that's back to confidence. The money is there," said the 77-year-old.

He also revealed that Ballymore property developer Sean Mulryan is to begin building houses again.

"It's something we haven't seen for years," he said.

Dr Smurfit, who built up a global paper and packaging giant, also stated that he was investing in young Irish entrepreneurs, particularly in the technology sector.

He has invested in four Irish businesses in the last 12 months but would not be drawn on names as they are private companies.

Mr O'Brien spoke of Dr Smurfit's support and loyalty throughout his career.

"Loyalty is not taught in any of our schools because I don't think you can teach anybody loyalty.

"You either have an instinctive loyalty to other people or you don't and I think this is one of Michael's finest attributes," said Mr O'Brien.

"The thing about Michael's world is that the little things are also the big things," Mr O'Brien added.

Mr Desmond paid tribute particularly to the Mr Smurfit's philanthropy and contribution to Irish society.

"I don't think there would have been a Financial Services Centre here unless Michael was chair of Telecom Eireann.

"He created a great opportunity for us to communicate with the rest of the world," said Mr Desmond.

The launch was attended by about 150 guests including ESRI chairman Laurence Crowley, Mexican ambassador Carlos Garcia de Alba, UCD president Andrew Deeks and Professor Ciaran O hOgartaigh, the Dean of Smurfit Business School.

Independent TD Michael Lowry, businessman Bill Cullen and partner Jackie Lavin, and former politician Charlie McCreevy were also there.

Published by Oak Tree and priced €24.95, 'A Life Worth Living' is now on sale.

Irish Independent

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