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Lord Ballyedmond death: An ambitious risk-taker whose gambles often paid off


Eddie Haughey became Northern Ireland's richest man through a combination of entrepreneurial zeal and a steadfast belief in himself.

Few people would have had the nerve and the vision needed to set up a business in Newry at the height of the Troubles.

Co Louth-born Haughey did just that.

Having spent time in the US – where he honed his skills as a salesman – the entrepreneurial Haughey spotted a niche in the animal healthcare market.

I met him and interviewed him a decade ago, in one of his only ever Irish newspaper interviews.

He outlined how over the previous 30-odd years his Norbrook Laboratories had become the shining light in Northern Ireland's industrial portfolio.

Haughey proved that he could develop and manufacture some of the most innovative and successful drugs on the market, despite the Troubles and despite the perception that Ireland's cost base was too high.

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If the product was good enough, Ireland could be competitive.

Haughey was a risk-taker but many of his gambles paid off.

He was incredibly shrewd and regularly deconstructed his business model to see if he could improve it. Norbrook would later move in to manufacturing the compounds used to actually make his drugs, which rapidly improved his profit margins.

He was also one of the first to see the potential of emerging markets – particularly Africa – and spent a great deal of time and energy building up Norbrook's presence on the continent.

The company's products, including the highly innovative Closmectin drug, have been hugely important in helping to treat fluke and parasites on cattle and sheep in Africa, where healthy animals may mean the difference between life and death. The industrialist had diverse interests, ranging from once owning an airport in Cumbria, to some prime real estate in London and Norfolk.

But Norbrook was his real focus in life.

Haughey was a true entrepreneur and there aren't many of them left.

The business world is poorer for his passing.

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