From multimillion euro company sales to success in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the second set of seven winners of this year's Irish Times Business Person of the Month Awards are among the country's most accomplished business leaders.
The monthly award, in association with KPMG, was created to mark excellence and outstanding achievement in the field, and is open to business people at home and abroad, as well as international executives leading major companies here.
The Covid lockdown has seen the awards delayed somewhat this year. As a result we have 14 monthly winners vying for the prize. Here we profile the winners for the seven winners between November 2019 and May 2020.
Noel and Valerie Moran – Prepaid Financial Services
Meath-based entrepreneurs Noel and Valerie Moran won the award for November after selling the business they founded at their kitchen table at the height of the last recession in a multimillion euro deal.
Under the original terms of the deal, in which Australian company EML Payments would acquire Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), Noel and Valerie would have netted a payout of about €260 million. The "economic realities" brought about by Covid-19 has seen the deal restructured, although the couple are still on track to receive about €155 million in addition to an earn-out component of about €60 million.
Established in London in 2008, PFS became one of Europe’s largest issuers of e-money with a presence in 25 countries and offices in the Republic, Malta, London and Manchester.
The sale topped off an extraordinary year for the couple after PFS also received an e-money licence by the Central Bank of Ireland, effectively ensuring that it will continue to trade in European markets and the UK whatever the outcome of Brexit.
And the EML deal will see the company gain access to more markets as the company piggybacks on the Australian company’s licences which include the US.
Pat Beirne – Mergon
Pat Beirne, founder and managing director of the family-owned plastics business Mergon, picked up the award in December after the company secured a multimillion euro investment to enable its expansion into China.
Established in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, in 1981, the company makes components for car-makers such as Tesla, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. Mergon also makes plastic moulding products for companies in other sectors, with clients including Abbott, Medtronic, Xerox and Whirlpool.
Its deal in December saw British private equity firm Elysian Capital come on board to enable it to expand further into China.
Elysian has taken a majority stake in the Irish group, with the Beirne family retaining a significant shareholding. Pat Beirne has committed to stay on and run the business.
No financial details of the transaction were disclosed. However, industry sources described it as “significant”. Elysian typically invests between £20 million and £100 million to acquire stakes in target companies. Mergon employs 660 people globally, with almost half of them based in Castlepollard.
Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby – Pointy
The first award of 2020 went to Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, the founders of Irish technology company Pointy after they sold their business to US tech giant Google.
The US company paid a reported $160 million (€145m) in a deal that netted a huge windfall for the founders. Cummins will receive a $42 million payout, while Charles Bibby and his wife Helena Bibby will get $39.7 million.
Pointy is Google’s fourth acquisition in Ireland over the past decade. More remarkably, it is Cummins’s second sale to the tech giant. It acquired his earlier start-up Plink in 2010 for an undisclosed sum, in a deal that Mr Cummins described at the time as “life-changing”.
Ironically, the talented techie was turned down for a job with Google when he applied to the tech group in 2005.
Pointy helps small retailers get their merchandise in front of online audiences without having to invest in the sort of systems that the likes of Amazon and Walmart use to attract business.
The $750 kit is attached to a retailer’s barcode scanner, and products are uploaded to the Pointy app as they are scanned, allowing people to find what they are looking for from local retailers rather than forcing them to order online.
Gene Murtagh – Kingspan
In February it was the turn of Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh to pick up the monthly award after the company he leads improved its market value to a high of €11.8 billion.
That came after the group reported that its trading profit grew 11.6 per cent to a record €497.1 million in 2019.
Founded in Cavan in 1996 by Murtagh's father Eugene and uncle Brendan Murtagh, Kingspan's sales have jumped 385 per cent to €1.65 billion since the current CEO took charge in 2005 as the group expanded its global footprint and products, aided by well-judged acquisitions.
Shares in the company delivered an almost 1,000 per cent return for investors – including stock price appreciation and dividends – between Murtagh jnr’s first day at the helm and the latest results day.
The return on the wider Irish stock market was just 60 per cent over the same period.
Murtagh moved after the share price spike to sell some of his stock, raising €5.37 million. Shares in the company have since fallen in line with the wider market as investors consider the impact of the spread of the coronavirus on the global economy. However, analysts at German bank Berenberg said at the time that Kingspan’s pullback offered a “rare entry point” for new investors.
Kate McLaughlin – We Got Pop
We Got Pop founder and chief executive Kate McLaughlin was named as the monthly award winner in March after the group was acquired in a multimillion dollar deal.
The company, which has developed a software platform for the entertainment industry, was acquired by LA-based Entertainment Partners, owner of the Central Casting company for an undisclosed sum.
Founded by the Dubliner in London six years ago, the company’s platform has changed the way people working in film and television production are hired, managed and paid. The solution was used to find cast and crew for more than 60 per cent of UK productions last year, including popular shows such as Killing Eve and the Crown.
Ms McLaughlin, whose brother Kevin previously played rugby for Leinster, got the idea for We Got Pop from her own on-set experience, firstly as an assistant director and then as an extras casting director.
“I realised that technology could resolve many of the pain points and play a meaningful role in digitising workflow and connecting the studios and freelancers in a better way,” she said.
Entertainment Partners said it intends to use the acquisition to significantly expand its footprint in the UK and Europe.
David McRedmond – An Post
April's award went to the An Post chief executive David McRedmond in recognition of the company's excellent work in keeping its postal services operating throughout the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and its network of post offices around the State open to provide a range of essential services to customers.
The crisis meant that the State-owned company experienced a sharp increase in parcel delivery volumes as hundreds of thousands more people bought goods online following the government-induced shutdown.
An Post’s postmen and women have also played a key role in many communities around the State by keeping in touch with elderly people living alone, often helping to organise groceries and delivering newspapers to their homes.
“An Post’s Covid response is a collaborative effort of a great management team, the unions and the board, led by frontline workers. I’m honoured to represent them,” Mr McRedmond told The Irish Times at the time.
The former TV3 boss has transformed the postal service under his reign, something which led to him being nominated for The Irish Times business person award last year. Since he joined the company in 2016, McRedmond has presided over a swift turnaround of An Post’s troubled position.
Seamus Gorman – Hibergene
The final award winner going forward for this year's Irish Times businessperson awards is Seamus Gorman, the chief executive of Hibergene.
Recognition comes for the company as a result of its role in making a breakthrough in testing for Covid-19. The Irish diagnostics company in May secured European Union approval to market a highly accurate, low-cost, rapid test for coronavirus.
The test promises to deliver results for patients who have the Covid-19 virus within 30 minutes, enabling rapid diagnosis of the disease at the early and highly infectious stage of infection. It can determine, within an hour, if patients have no sign of the virus.
It operates without the reagents whose scarcity undermined testing at an earlier critical stage of the pandemic, and can be completed in a fraction of the time required by the big centralised laboratories that have been responsible for testing until now.
Rapid accurate testing is seen as critical for governments if they are to succeed in reopening and keeping open economies and getting people back to work. The Dublin company was among 18 coronavirus-related projects to win backing when the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund put out a special call for ideas to tackle the rapidly-spreading pandemic in January. And it is the first to deliver results, with the Irish company securing EU approval to market its new test across Europe.