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Monday 22 January 2018

The Edward I knew was a real visionary

Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Industrialist Eddie Haughey became the North's richest man through a combination of enterpreneurial zeal and a steadfast belief in himself.

Few people would have had the nerve and vision to set up a business in Newry at the height of the Troubles. Louth-born Haughey did just that.

Having spent time in the US, where he honed his skills as a salesman, the entrepreneurial Haughey spotted a niche in the animal healthcare market.

I met him and interviewed him a decade ago, in one of his only ever Irish newspaper interviews. He outlined how over the previous 30 odd years his Norbrook Laboratories had become the shining light in the North's industrial portfolio.

Haughey proved he could develop and manufacture some of the most successful drugs on the market, despite the Troubles and the perception that Ireland's cost base was too high. If the product was good enough, Ireland could be competitive.

Haughey, who became Lord Ballyedmond, was a risk-taker, but many of his gambles paid off. He was incredibly shrewd and regularly deconstructed his business model to see if he could improve it. Norbrook would later move into manufacturing the compounds used to actually make his drugs, which rapidly improved his profit margins.

He was also one of the first to see the potential of emerging markets, particularly Africa, and spent a great deal of time and energy building up Norbrook's presence on the continent.

The company's products, including the innovative Closmectin drug, have been hugely important in helping to treat fluke and parasites in cattle and sheep in Africa, where healthy animals can mean the difference between life and death.

The industrialist had diverse interests ranging from once owning an airport in Cumbria to some prime real estate in London and Norfolk. But Norbrook was his real focus. Haughey was a true entrepreneur and there aren't many of them left. The business world is poorer for his passing.

Irish Independent

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