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Monday 24 June 2019

Top marks: The schools that shaped our business brains

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

THE typical Irish chief executive went to a state school in Dublin run by a Catholic religious order and then went to UCD to study commerce, according to a detailed survey by the Irish Independent.

While that is the most common path to the top of the business world, the survey also shows that attending a private school increases your chances of leading an Irish company.

Fee-paying students are two-and-a-half times more likely to end up in charge of a company than those who attended a non-fee-paying school.

While three-fifths of Irish chief executives and business leaders attended non-fee- paying schools, elite colleges such as Blackrock, Belvedere and Clongowes Wood accounted for the remaining 40pc of Irish company leaders, despite the fact that Ireland's fee-paying schools account for just 14.4pc of its secondary schools overall.

The importance of a private education seems to be rising. A decade ago, a similar study suggested that just over a quarter of company leaders had the benefit of a private school education.

When it comes to turning out the most business leaders, the Jesuits are top of the class. The order has taught 16pc of Irish company leaders through both private and non-fee-paying schools, according to our survey of 50 top Irish CEOs and company leaders.

They are closely followed by the Christian Brothers, with old CBS boys accounting for 14pc of Irish company leaders. Third place goes to Marist-educated executives at 8pc.

The VHI's John O'Dwyer, pharma entrepreneur Edward Haughey, Sandisk's Hugh Connolly and Bord Gais's John Mullins are all former Christian Brother boys.

The food, technology and semi-state sectors are the areas most likely to be dominated by executives educated in non-fee-paying schools, while those who went to private schools tend to dominate in traditional fields of business such as banking. There were just two female company and business leaders in our top 50.

Just over one-third of business leaders attended a school in Dublin – giving those who attended school in the capital a slightly better chance of heading up a large company, given the population of Dublin city and county represents 28pc of the population overall.


While private fee-paying schools did perform way above their numerical strength – to a factor of around 2.5 – no single school demonstrated a dominant ability to produce any more than three CEOs.

The best-known fee-paying schools – Blackrock, Belvedere, Rockwell and Castleknock – all account for one business leader apiece. Clongowes Wood, in Kildare, a fee-paying Jesuit-run school, had the highest CEO count of any school in the country on our 50-strong sample list with a total of three – Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, Greencore's Patrick Coveney and Providence's Tony O'Reilly Junior.

Just four other schools boasted more than one entry among our business leadership 50 and two of these were fee-paying – not surprising perhaps, given fee-paying schools also account for two-thirds of the top 30 Irish schools by university admissions.

Gonzaga in Dublin (also a private Jesuit school) was attended by Patrick Kennedy of Paddy Power and David Redmond of TV3.

Marian College in Ballsbridge, a non-fee-paying school in South Dublin city, is run by the Marist order and includes Donal Connell of An Post and Rory Byrne of Total Produce among its alumni.

Cork's most featured school was Presentation College, a fee-paying school run by the Presentation order, which educated Frank Dunne of Dunnes Stores and Brian McCarthy of FEXCO.

Non-fee-paying Crescent Comprehensive College, Limerick, has the distinction of having educated the top Irish executives from two of Ireland's top three companies. Both Paul Rellis of Microsoft and John Herlihy of Google are Crescent Comprehensive old boys.

When it comes to third level education, UCD is the college attended by far more CEOs than any other institution.

More than one-third of Irish company and business leaders (34pc) hold a degree or higher qualification from the Belfield campus.

Next, but dragging a long way behind, is Trinity College, which accounted for the college years of just 14pc of business leaders.

TCD is run close for second place by UCC, which educated 12pc of our company leaders. The University of Limerick and NUI Galway had two business leaders apiece.

Despite their proliferation nationwide, institutes of technology were cited by just one top executive out of 50 – Microsoft's Paul Rellis, who attended Waterford IT.

Around 86pc of Irish company leaders have a third level qualification, with the most popular being the Bachelor of Commerce degree – or famous BComm – which is held by one-in-five board leaders, followed jointly by a Bachelor of Science – BSc – (14pc) and a Bachelor of Arts – BA (14pc).


A Bachelor of Business Studies comes in at just 10pc. Some 14pc had masters degrees and 4pc held doctorates.

However, Ireland's Rich List is dominated by those who received their post school education at that other eminent college – the University of Life.

These include financier Dermot Desmond, who joined Citibank on leaving school; Glen Dimplex's Martin Naughton, who did an apprenticeship at Hawker Siddley in the UK; and John Magnier and JP McManus, who both went straight to work directly from school.

Company bosses to have followed this direct route include Kerry Group's Stan McCarthy, who went straight into Kerry Group's training programme, and Fexco's Brian McCarthy.

Our list was selected from Irish educated CEOs, or most senior executives in the case of foreign-owned companies, from the top 50 Irish companies listing.

Added to these are the Irish educated among the country's top 20 richest people and, finally, we added a selection of CEOs from Ireland's largest companies and semi-state interests.

We have excluded CEOs who were not educated in Ireland and those who did not participate by furnishing their details.

Myles Lee, Chief Executive CRH. Newbridge College (FP); UCC (BEng)

Paul Rellis, General Manager, Microsoft Ireland. Crescent College Limerick (NF); Waterford IT

John Herlihy, Director, Google Ireland. Crescent College Limerick (NF); UCD (BComm)

Tommy Breen, CEO of DCC. St Patricks Grammar School Downpatrick (-); Queens, Belfast (BSc)

Dermot O'Connell, General Manager, Dell Ireland. St Brendan's College Killarney (NF); Trinity College (BSc)

Gary McGann, CEO Smurfit Kappa. Colaiste Mhuire Dublin 1 (NF); UCD (BA)

Dr Paul Duffy, Pfizer Vice President. Balla Secondary School Mayo (NF); UCG (BSc & MSc); Open University (Phd chemistry)

Stan McCarthy, CEO Kerry Group. St Joseph’s College Freshford (FP); Kerry Group Graduate Programme

Michael O'Leary, CEO Ryanair. Clongowes Wood (FP); Trinity College (BESS)

Frank Dunne, MD, Dunnes Stores. Presentation College Cork (FP)

Tony Keohane, CEO Te sco. Scoil Muire Douglas (now Douglas Community School) (NF); INSEAD (management programme)

John Williamson, Chief Executive, Topaz. Hamilton High School Bandon (NF); UCC (BComm)

John Moloney, Group MD, Glanbia. Summerhill College Sligo (NF); UCC(BAg)/UCG (MAg)

Rory Byrne, CEO Total Produce. Marian College Ballsbridge (NF); UCD (BComm)

Julie O'Neill, MD Gilead Sciences Ireland. Manor House School Raheny (NF); Trinity College (BSc)/UCD (MBA)

Hugh Connolly, GM Sandisk. Ardscoil Ris, Dublin (NF); Trinity College (BSc MSc)

Owen Killian, CEO ARYZTA. St Aloysius College, Athlone (NF); UCD (BAg)

Michael Chadwick, Chairman of Grafton Group. Sutton Park (FP); Trinity (BA & MSc)

Kevin Lane, Chairman Irish Dairy Board. St Ita's, Abbeyfeale (NF); University of Limerick (BBS)

Martin Murphy, MD,HP Ireland. CUS Leeson Street (FP); Trinity College (BA and MAI)

Sean O'Driscoll, Glen Dimplex. St Finbarrs College, Cork (NF); UCC (BComm)

John Mullins,CEO (outgoing), Bord Gais - North Monastery Gaelscoil (CBS)(NF) /UCC (BEng and MEng)/Smurfit School (MBA)

Gene Murtagh, CEO Kingspan. Gormanston College (FP); University of Limerick (BBS)

Ritchie Boucher, CEO Bank of Ireland. Rockwell College (FP); UCD (BBs)

David Duffy, CEO AIB. Terenure College (FP); Tr inity College (BBs) (MBs)

Cathy Kearney, (Apple, director Ireland). school not available; UCC (BComm)

Patrick Coveney, CEO Greencore. Clongowes Wood (FP); UCC (BComm)

Donal Connell, CEO An Post. Marian College, Ballsbridge (NF); UCD (BE)

Patrick Kennedy, CE, Paddy Power. Gonzaga D6 (FP); UCD (BComm)

Tony O'Reilly Jnr, Providence Resources. Harrow/ Clongowes Wood (FP); Brown University (Economics/ History)/ London School of Economics

Noel Curran, director general RTE. Patrician Brother, Carrickmacross (NF); DCU (BA)

Vincent Crowley, CEO INM. Gonzaga D6 (FP); Trinity College(BA )

David McCann, MD Fyffes. Castleknock College (FP); UCD (BL)

John O'Dwyer, CEO VHI. Synge Street CBS (NF); IMI (BA mgt)

David Hanway, CEO O2. St Pauls Raheny (NF); University of Leicester (BSc)

Pat O'Doherty, Chief Executive ESB. St Declan's CBS Cabra (NF); UCD (BEng MEng)/Harvard (Advanced Management)


Denis O'Brien, telecoms/media. The High School Dublin (FP); UCD(BA)/ Boston College (MBA)

Dermot Desmond, Financier. Good Counsel College, New Ross, and Scoil Mhuire Marino (NF)

Pearse Lyons, Animal Feed, Biotechnology. St Mary's College Dundalk (NF); UCD (Bsc)

Martin Naughton, Glen Dimplex founder. De La Salle Dundalk (NF); Apprenticeship Hawker Siddley

Edward Haughey, Norbrook Pharmaceuticals. Christian Brothers Dundalk (NF)

Philip Berber, (founder of Cybercorp) Glimmer of Hope Foundation. Wesley College Dublin (FP); UCD (BComm)

Tony O'Reilly, (Fitzwilton/Waterford). Belvedere College (FP); UCD (BL)/University of Bradford PHD. Lochlann Quinn, Property businessman. Blackrock Dublin (FP); UCD (BComm)

John Magnier, Investment/bloodstock. Glenstal Abbey (FP)

Mike Lynch, Software. Bancrofts School Woodford/Cambridge (DL)

J P McManus, Investment. Christian Brothers, Limerick (NF)

Brian McCarthy, FEXCO. Presentation Brothers, Cork (FP)

Sir David McMurtry, Engineering/Renishaw Ltd. Mountjoy School Dublin (NF); Apprenticeship Bristol Aero Engines

Niall FitzGerald, Unilever and Reuters. St Munchin's College, Limerick (NF); UCD (BComm)

FP= Fee paying: NF =Non-fee paying

Irish Independent

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