McGann will draw on Smurfit experience to help shore up Aryzta

Non-executive chairman has key rebuilding role in reviving struggling food business

 Gary McGann, who officially retired from his chief executive role at Smurfit Kappa Group 18 months ago. Photograph: Eric Luke

Gary McGann, who officially retired from his chief executive role at Smurfit Kappa Group 18 months ago. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

So, how is “retirement”, if that’s what you could call it, going for Gary McGann?

The veteran corporate executive officially retired from his chief executive role at Smurfit Kappa Group 18 months ago. This week, he announced he will step down in May from its board after nearly 17 years.

The 66-year-old won’t be reaching for his pipe and slippers yet, however. McGann still has at least six other “for profit” directorships, as well as a smattering of board roles in the non-profit sector.

One suspects Aryzta, where he is chairman and thus responsible for rebuilding its executive team following the recent disastrous end to the tenure of chief executive Owen Killian, will take up most of his time.

McGann also sits on the board of listed companies Paddy Power Betfair, which he chairs, as well as Green Reit and Multi Packaging Solutions. He also chairs building group Sisk and insurer Aon Ireland.

In recent months, he also set up Crest Asset Management, which he co-owns with Alvin Price, the corporate lawyer and chairman of William Fry.

Cut loose

His decision this week to step down ends one of the longest tenures on the board of a major Irish corporate entity. McGann had become synonymous with the group.

Only Michael Smurfit, who hired McGann from the top job at Aer Lingus to become his chief financial officer in 1998, has had a closer association.

Over the years, McGann nursed the paper and packaging giant it through various mergers, flotations and a steep collapse and subsequent recovery in its fortunes as it worked its way through a heavy debt load in the post-crash corporate world. He built, and rebuilt, Smurfit Kappa several times over.

His Aryzta role is as non-executive chairman, and so requires a different set of oversight skills.

Yet it seems likely that McGann will be required draw on some of the turnaround experience he gained at Smurfit to help the new Aryzta management team to shore up its performance.

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