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Paddy Campbell

'I can't stand pin-stripe suits, I can't believe I ever wore them," Paddy Campbell marvels. But he wore them well in his previous life as head of a catering empire. His new occupation favours a much more casual attire.

Campbell and his wife Veronica started a business doing food for weddings and funerals in the 1970s, and expanded to supply catering contracts for oil rigs, often in remote parts of the world.

They grew a multi-million turnover business with contracts at several Irish universities and large companies, including Telecom Eireann.

In 1986, Campbell Catering, led by Paddy as CEO and chairman, rescued the floundering coffee house icon Bewleys. Through the next 20 years, the Campbell Bewley Group expanded into hotels, vending machines, franchising and retail catering, as well as tea and coffee wholesaling.

In 2005, US services giant Aramark bought the group.

That same year Paddy, who had discovered a passion for sculpture, set up a studio in Florence. He is still involved in the business as "a back-seat driver" and a substantial shareholder and director. Last accounts showed profits of €1.74m.

Over 50 per cent of its revenue now comes from the US market, including the Boston-based Rebecca's cafe chain.

Meanwhile, Campbell is now a well-regarded sculptor, spending part of his year in Florence. His pieces sell for around €3,000.

Sunday Indo Business