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Anthony O’Reilly, Flashy Irish Tycoon Who Led Heinz Company, Dies at 88

Anthony O’Reilly, Flashy Irish Tycoon Who Led Heinz Company, Dies at 88


Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, a high-flying, charming, Irish-born former chairman of the H.J. Heinz Company, who additionally owned newspapers, luxurious manufacturers and trophy houses in France and the Bahamas, solely to lose almost every little thing in his eighth decade, died on May 18 in Dublin. He was 88.

The Irish Times and different Irish newspapers, citing a household spokesman, reported that he died in a hospital. No trigger was given.

From his earliest days, Mr. O’Reilly, who was often known as Tony, displayed a humiliation of items. He was an elite-level rugby participant whereas nonetheless in his teenagers — the “redheaded pinup boy of Irish rugby,” as The Guardian put it. His expertise for enterprise was equally precocious. At 26, because the advertising head of the Irish Dairy Board, he created the model Kerrygold to promote Irish butter to English grocery buyers, and it’s nonetheless one of many nation’s finest recognized international exports.

Mr. O’Reilly was recruited by Heinz to run its companies in Britain in 1969, then moved to the corporate’s Pittsburgh headquarters, the place he rose to be chief govt and the primary chairman from outdoors the Heinz household. Under his management, Heinz’s worth elevated twelvefold; Business Week known as him “one of many world’s most charismatic businessmen.”

“He has one million tales and tells all of them nicely,” a Heinz director, Richard M. Cyert, informed Business Week in 1997. “When you sit all the way down to lunch with him, it’s like going to a movie show for leisure.”

Mr. O’Reilly performed tennis on the White House with President George H.W. Bush, who reportedly thought of him for commerce secretary. He helped create the Ireland Funds, whose promotion of peace tasks in Northern Ireland undermined fund-raising by the Irish Republican Army amongst Irish Americans. Queen Elizabeth II knighted Mr. O’Reilly for his service to Northern Ireland in 2001.

He had a extremely uncommon association at Heinz that allowed him to additionally construct his personal enterprise empire. He would fly within the firm Gulfstream after work on Friday to Dublin, the place he slot in conferences and typically a rugby match, after which jet again to be in his Pittsburgh workplace by Monday at 8 a.m.

Perhaps extra efficiently than another entrepreneur, he rode the Irish financial increase of the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s often known as the Celtic Tiger, changing into the nation’s richest man and reportedly its first billionaire.

He established his newspaper group, Independent News & Media, with the acquisition of The Irish Independent, the nation’s main newspaper, in 1973. It grew to incorporate greater than 100 properties, together with The Independent of London and papers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, bringing Mr. O’Reilly entry and affect with political leaders.

In 1990 he purchased Waterford Wedgwood, the Anglo-Irish crystal and china firm, with the ambition to construct it into a worldwide luxurious group alongside the traces of Gucci and LVMH.

Mr. O’Reilly acquired the approach to life and well-known buddies to match his status companies. His Irish base was Castlemartin, a 750-acre property, the place President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela have been company.

He additionally had a Georgian mansion in Dublin, a beachfront house on Lyford Cay within the Bahamas and a chateau in Deauville, France. His artwork assortment included a $24.2 million Monet and works by Picasso and Matisse.

Although Mr. O’Reilly constructed his fortune along with his ample compensation from Heinz, the corporate’s humdrum manufacturers didn’t replicate his aspirational tastes. He as soon as mentioned of Heinz’s ubiquitous ketchup, in accordance with The Irish Times, “We have been producing it, like chunk, chunk, chunk, day by day in 100 factories around the globe.” Owning newspapers, however, supplied “greater than you may get out of baked beans,” he mentioned.

It didn’t cease him from lavishly spending Heinz’s cash in an effort to impart glamour to the corporate. He flew a whole bunch of company to Ireland for an annual gala ball and a thoroughbred race, the Heinz 57 Stakes.

In 1996, Forbes named him the fourth highest-paid chief govt within the United States, whilst the corporate’s enterprise outcomes had dissatisfied for a number of years. “Tony O’Reilly’s ego and paycheck are larger than his accomplishments,” the journal wrote.

He stepped down as Heinz’s chief govt the subsequent yr, although he remained its chairman till 2000. In his early 60s, he turned his full-time focus to his personal companies, which, along with newspapers and luxurious wares, included oil exploration and an organization that transformed castles into accommodations.

Like many enterprise empires, Mr. O’Reilly’s was constructed on debt. When the worldwide monetary disaster blew in like a Category 5 hurricane in 2008, Mr. O’Reilly’s ventures buckled. He misplaced management of his media properties to a longtime rival Irish tycoon, Denis O’Brien.

In 2009, Waterford Wedgewood, into which Mr. O’Reilly had poured giant private sums, failed and went into receivership.

Pursued by collectors, he bought a lot of his artworks and his beloved Castlemartin, which the American telecom billionaire John Malone purchased for 7.4 million euros, or about $10.2 million, in 2015.

Lawyers for Mr. O’Reilly mentioned he owed eight banks €195 million, or about $268.9 million on the time. In 2015, when he was 79, he declared chapter within the Bahamas.

Anthony John Francis O’Reilly was born on May 7, 1936, in Dublin, the one youngster of John O’Reilly and Aileen O’Conner. He father was a civil servant.

According to a 2015 biography of Mr. O’Reilly, “The Maximalist” by Matt Cooper, Tony realized when he was 15 that his mother and father weren’t married. His father had left a spouse, with whom he had 4 youngsters, for Tony’s mom. The couple formally wed within the mid-Nineteen Seventies.

Tony O’Reilly’s elite rugby profession started in 1955 at age 19, when he toured internationally with the Lions, a workforce of the perfect gamers in Britain and Ireland. He was the youngest participant on the Lions and nonetheless holds its document for essentially the most tries — the equal of a soccer landing — scored in take a look at matches (video games in opposition to different nationwide or regional groups).

On a rugby tour of Australia, he met Susan Cameron, whom he married in 1962. They had six youngsters, together with triplets, earlier than divorcing in 1990. His second spouse, Chryss Goulandris, a Greek transport heiress whom he married in 1991, died final yr.

Mr. O’Reilly is survived by his sons Anthony Cameron, Gavin and St. John Anthony; his daughters Susan Wildman, Justine O’Reilly and Caroline Dempsey; and 23 grandchildren.

In 2018, Mr. O’Reilly addressed buddies and former teammates who had gathered in his honor on the Old Belvedere Rugby Club in Dublin.

“You win and also you lose,” he mentioned, “and in the event you don’t know find out how to lose, you don’t know find out how to reside.”

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