‘The Irish Times’ Business Person of the Month: Tony Smurfit

Smurfit Kappa takeover of Dutch company illustrates determination to be growth leader


Smurfit Kappa chief executive Tony Smurfit has been chosen as The Irish Times Business Person of the Month for July, an award run in association with KPMG.

When Smurfit Kappa closed its €460 million takeover of Dutch company, Reparenco, in early July, it illustrated the Irish group’s determination to be among the growth leaders in the packaging industry in Europe.

The deal strengthened its hand in one of its core markets on the continent, where the anticipated rise of e-retailing is expected to present major opportunities for packaging companies in the medium term.

It also had symbolic importance for Smurfit Kappa and its chief executive, who had just fought off an unwanted €9 billion takeover approach from US rival, International Paper.

Despite pressure from some shareholders to consider a deal, Smurfit, together with his board and fellow management, remained resolute in the assertion that the offer fundamentally undervalued the group. IP eventually relented.

Such obstinance and independence of spirit brought risks for Smurfit, who faced pressure to prove his leadership can create results. In Smurfit Kappa’s subsequent interim results, he delivered, with group revenues up 5 per cent.

Smurfit is the third generation of his family to take the helm of the group that bears his name. He was appointed chief executive in September 2015, after having served as chief operations officer since 2002 and as director since 1989.