Haughey single-handedly forged Norbrook into business empire

He once said he had begun with ‘a briefcase and price list’

Edward Haughey, also known as Lord Ballyedmond, who died on Thursday night in a helicopter crash close to his estate in England. Photograph: Pacemaker.

Edward Haughey, also known as Lord Ballyedmond, who died on Thursday night in a helicopter crash close to his estate in England. Photograph: Pacemaker.


The giant chimney that towers high above Norbrook Laboratories’ head office in Newry is more than just a well-known local landmark.

Emblazened with the company’s logo, it is also something of a statement about the reach of a man who single-handedly grew a business empire from a gut feeling about veterinary pharmaceuticals more than 46 years ago.

Edward Haughey, as he was then before he became a life peer and adopted the title of Baron Ballyedmond of Mourne in Co Down, had come back to Northern Ireland in the late 1960s from the United States where he had spent four years working in pharmaceutical sales.

His early sales career shaped his outlook and persuaded him that big changes lay ahead, particularly when it came to drug licensing, for the pharmaceutical markets in Europe.

Mr Haughey, who founded his own business in 1968, once said he began with simply “a briefcase and a price list”.

Today the company he founded, Norbrook, claims to be the “only homegrown British pharmaceutical company” that specialises in the development, licensing, manufacturing and marketing of veterinary and human pharmaceuticals.

But in 1968 when Mr Haughey was starting out he began by importing products, labelling them and selling them on.

He then decided to “graduate”, as he termed it, into manufacturing and got together with a handful of manufacturers to start producing a range of products. What made Mr Haughey’s enterprise different from others at the time was that these products were manufactured to strict specifications.

This is exactly what put him ahead of his competitors – when new legislation governing veterinary pharmaceuticals was eventually introduced by the then European Common Market, Mr Haughey was doing what few others were at the time – already complying with the legislation. It gave him a major advantage.

He then started going head to head against major players in the industry such as Glaxo Welcome and ICI – undeterred by the fact that his was a small Northern Ireland company with no track record.

He won sales and began to build relationships with major multinationals. Before long he had his own manufacturing operation and began contract manufacturing for pharmaceutical organisations that had been his main competitors.

In 1974 Norbrook applied for its first patent which proved to be a game-changer for both Mr Haughey and the company.

Norbrook began to build a reputation, particularly in the large animal market.

More patents followed and Norbrook expanded both its production facilities and its sales teams across the globe during the 1970s on the strength of its successful product range which was initially chiefly focused on cattle.

Mr Haughey believed that research and development was the key to any company’s success.

He invested heavily in R&D, and the result was a chain of new and pioneering veterinary pharmaceutical products that established Norbrook as a global player.

It expanded its manufacturing operations to four continents, with sales and marketing offices in 30 countries, and now has customers in 120 countries.

In 1987 it won its first Queen’s Award for Export, one of the most highly sought-after business accolades in the UK.

It has received five Queen’s Awards. Including its three key manufacturing facilities in Newry, it has manufacturing and other operations in the Republic, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Kenya and Brazil.

It is especially proud of the fact that it is the only company in the world licensed by the United States Food & Drugs Administration to manufacture sterile injections outside the US for veterinary use and import them for sale in US territory.

Norbrook Holdings, the overall parent group of Norbrook Laboratories and 20 other subsidiaries, reported a turnover in the 12 months to August 2012 of £191,706,584.