Friday 20 September 2019

'I'm delighted it is settled' - Kilkenny Group boss Marian O'Gorman breaks silence on legal row with her son

 

Kilkenny Group chief executive Marian O'Gorman
Kilkenny Group chief executive Marian O'Gorman
Marian O'Gorman, CEO of Kilkenny Group, at its flagship store on Nassau Street, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Greg O’Gorman and his mother Marian
Marian O’Gorman, chief executive of Kilkenny Group. Photo: Tony Gavin
Marian O'Gorman. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Marian O'Gorman, who heads up the high-end Irish craft and design retailer, the Kilkenny Group, has spoken about the difficulties in running a family business following a bitter two-year row with her son Greg.

In her first interview since the family dispute was settled last year, she describes the episode as a "difficult time personally". However, she said she believes her son "will make a success of whatever interests and challenges he decides to pursue" and said perhaps it was because they were so alike that working together ran into difficulties.

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Her focus now was on employees and growing the business for the future. "I am delighted it's settled to everyone's satisfaction and I am fully focused on the business. I want to move on with the company and the 360 people working there."

Marian O'Gorman said her advice on family businesses was that there are different dynamics.

Greg O’Gorman and his mother Marian
Greg O’Gorman and his mother Marian

"In a family business you work harder - harder you expect.

"All enterprises have their issues and family businesses have a different dynamic because boundaries can cross over ... they can get a little bit blurred," she said.

"My recommendation to anyone in family business is to keep the professional and the family separate. It's not easy, but a family business that can achieve that will be there for the long term."

The row erupted in 2016 when Marian O'Gorman terminated Greg's employment, and he took legal action to stop his dismissal, and to require his mother to honour a deal which he claimed held the Kilkenny Group in trust for him and his siblings.

Marian O'Gorman, CEO of Kilkenny Group, at its flagship store on Nassau Street, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Marian O'Gorman, CEO of Kilkenny Group, at its flagship store on Nassau Street, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

A year ago, the High Court was told a settlement had been reached. The resolution entailed a new formal agreement to secure the financial interests of the children. It involved setting up a holding company for the Kilkenny Group called Clydaville Holdings. The four O'Gorman children, Greg, Michelle, Melissa and Christopher, each hold shares, alongside their mother, as does long-standing finance director Conor Lynch.

Marian O'Gorman said over the past six months she had been trying to enjoy business and 'smell the roses'. "I am stepping back a little bit more and we are bringing in extra skills around the table that we need in the business."

She said there was a good mix of family members and outsiders at the top table.

"I have two daughters in the company now, Michelle and Melissa, and they are taking more responsibility, and they are doing all the travelling I used to have to do," she said.

The top team at the company now included a number of outsiders, she added. "When we have a decision to make, I want to hear their views and can they work it out."

This had been a learning curve: "I am now learning to close my mouth and let them make decisions, and if they ask my opinion, I'll give it."

But she added: "I am still driving the company forward, I am not retracting in any way."

Sunday Independent

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