The Lyons share just keeps on growing
“It’s been the fundamental philosophy – just reinvest, reinvest, reinvest,“ he says.
It also means he can buy a Canadian distillery (for which he has not yet found a use) on a whim. He can have an Irish pub (and this is no Mickey Mouse operation) built in the middle of his HQ, or choose the extravagance of an in-house television and multi-media production studio. Walking through Alltech HQ is a bit like walking through the Wonka factory. Each room is more extravagant than the last.
But these indulgences aside (“Pearse’s follies”, as the man himself calls them), most insiders will tell you the key to Lyons’s success is Lyons himself. Staff members talk about having “grown up” at Alltech and how they love the place, how the research being conducted by scientists at the company’s many state-of-the-art laboratories is second to none, and how Dr Lyons works harder than any of them, thus commanding unparalleled loyalty from all of his staff – even though a shareholding in the company will never be on the table.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the Godfather is Lyons’s favourite film. “He’s watched it over a hundred times,“ says Deirdre. “I know he’s worn out at least three copies of it.”
In many ways, Lyons is the Don. A devout Catholic who considers his family his “greatest achievement”, he has full control (and a hand in literally every aspect) of a money-making machine that he lives for. You could well imagine him taking work calls on his daughter’s wedding day.
But Lyons is not as joyless as Vito or Michael. He also has the flair and the charisma of Sonny. At a recent fundraiser for Haiti (where Alltech grows coffee and supports two local schools) held at the Alltech distillery in downtown Lexington, Lyons evoked a bow tie-wearing frontman of the old showband era as he entertained guests with stories of Ireland and Alltech’s push to create sustainable jobs in Haiti.
But while Haiti is the focus of his philanthropic work, Ireland’s plight is never far from his mind.
“The current situation in Ireland is very sad. But it’s over, it’s done, it’s behind us. And it’s a tragedy that the rest of us as Irish taxpayers will have to pay for, for the unforeseen future,” he says.
“Now we have an asset – our people, our location, our wonderful reputation here in the US. We need to use them to generate opportunities for our young people,“ he says, before stressing again that education is the key.
“Let’s put groups together, use the Smurfit School, use the biochemistry talents and let’s create some businesses. But not just in software. Almost by definition it’s transient. We must put some real businesses in place.”
In the next four years, Lyons intends to quadruple Alltech’s revenue to $4 billion, hence the continuing slew of acquisitions (at what many would consider breakneck speed – there have been six so far this year).
And the plan is to do it without borrowing any money. Sounds crazy? Lyons says they can do it.
“Profit to us is a ticket to freedom, the freedom to do things,“ he says.
And despite how off-the-cuff some of those acquisitions may appear, according to his brother (his consigliere, of sorts) John Lyons, “there is always a plan”.
Name: Dr Pearse Lyons
Position: Founder and president of Alltech Inc
Family: Married to Deirdre; two children, Aoife (38) and Mark (35)
Something you might expect:Lyons will receive an Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Ireland-US Council in New York on November 8th
Something that might surprise:Both his father and mother were teetotal and members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association