Galvin credited with revitalising company

 

DR Paddy Galvin's seven years at Waterford Crystal have seen the company transformed from a position of chronic loss making to one of record sales and profits.

That transformation has not been painless and has involved a massive restructuring of the three crystal factories, with the workforce pared from almost 3,000 to 1,200, as Waterford moved to cope with an uneconomic cost base.

Dr Galvin left Guinness for Waterford Crystal in August 1989, eight months before a group headed by Morgan Stanley, Fitzwilton and an investment group headed by Dr Tony O'Reilly paid almost £100 million for 29.9 per cent of Waterford Wedgwood.

The arrival of Dr Galvin and the later arrival of Dr Tony O'Reilly and his investment group led quickly to a decision that with its present cost base and huge workforce, Waterford Crystal was simply uneconomic. Deep and painful cuts were required.

This was the second time in the past 15 years that Dr Galvin had presided over a major corporate restructuring - he was the originator of the rationalisation at the Guinness brewery in Dublin which saw employment fall from more than 3,000 to the current 700.

Paddy Galvin admits candidly that the restructuring and rationalisation of the crystal operations has been a painful period - for himself personally and for those who lost their jobs at the plants. "For three and a half to four years, it was dog rough; it was difficult for all in a trying and testing period."

That period in the early 1990s included a long and bitter 14 week strike when the workforce resisted the cutbacks and wage cuts that Dr Galvin and the investment group headed by Dr Tony O'Reilly felt were essential if Waterford Crystal was to survive in the face of cheaper competition.

"When I took over, I thought it was matter of living in hope. I never expected such a transformation to a situation where we now have record sales and record profits."

In a tribute yesterday, Dr O'Reilly - who is now chairman of Waterford Wedgwood - said: "Paddy Galvin's long, distinguished business career culminated in the achievement of the turnaround at Waterford Crystal. Under his leadership, the management team at Waterford Crystal has successfully managed the transition from a production driven entity to a profitable market led, consumer focused company."

The 63 year old Dr Galvin said yesterday that he had an option to retire at the end of next month, and after talking it over with Dr O'Reilly, agreed to exercise that option. "I've been working a long time - too long in fact - and the time was right to give up my executive role. There's a strong executive team in Waterford. I'm very happy with them and I'm, very happy with Redmond O'Donoghue."

He emphasised, however, that he will still have an active involvement as chairman of Waterford Crystal and a member of the Waterford Wedgwood board. He will also remain chairman of Stuart Crystal, the British group acquired last year by Waterford Wedgwood for £4.2 million.

Dr Galvin is also a member of the Bank of Ireland court of directors and a director of tobacco group Gallaher (Dublin). Asked whether he will take up more non executive directorships, Dr Galvin said: "It depends what comes my way.