Sir Michael W.J. Smurfit
Former Chairman and CEO, Jefferson Smurfit Group p.l.c.
“There's no such thing as a bad company, just bad management”
Michael Smurfit took control of the Jefferson Smurfit Group p.l.c. (JSG) in 1977; and, since then, this shrewd businessman from Ireland has experienced nothing short of one remarkable success after another. Through his diligent work, Smurfit has created the largest paper-based packaging company in the world.
The Jefferson Smurfit Group p.l.c., founded by Michael's father, is based in Ireland and has operations in 13 countries on five continents. During the 1980s, JSG's most prosperous period, Smurfit led the company through takeovers of ailing paper-product businesses.
Considered a major step in the growth of JSG, a larger company, Mobil Oil's Container Corporation of America, was acquired. JSG made a 50-50 joint venture with Morgan Stanley to purchase this large packaging company. Smurfit's motive behind the investment was to increase the size of his company, a task at which he succeeded brilliantly.
According to Smurfit, "There's no such thing as a bad company, just bad management. The company is a child, if you will. All I am looking forward to is another successful year in business and then a three-day break in Acapulco."
The key to Michael Smurfit's success is his ability to locate excellent opportunities, assess the value and risk associated with obtaining the opportunity, and, finally, act immediately to tie down the deal. Smurfit claims that "tactics, superior execution, and speed" are the abilities on which he relies to be successful.
Meticulous in his management, Smurfit demands a strict, error-free running of his company. He is intolerant of foolish mistakes. According to Paddy Wright, managing director of Smurfit Ireland, "I've seen grown men cry when they've got a tongue lashing from Michael Smurfit." But one should not believe that his strict control over JSG is an indication that his employees are not treated well. Smurfit hires individuals who he believes not only can do a job, but who also will be able to move up in the company. When individuals wish to resign, they must go through an interview process to determine if JSG could have prevented the loss, in order that the company may learn from the few mistakes that they make.
Everybody in the company respects Smurfit. As Paddy Wright will attest, "He's a demanding boss, but he's a fair one. You see guys here who dress like Michael, get their hair cut like Michael - we all like to think there's a bit of Michael in us." Smurfit, with the amount of respect he receives from his fellow workers, combined with dedication and his keen business instinct, will surely continue as a very successful businessman at the helm of the very successful Jefferson Smurfit Group.