Business Person of the Month

December 2011: Gary McGann, CEO, Smurfit Kappa Group

By Business & Finance
02 January 2012
Gary McCann

The Smurfit Kappa Group was Ireland’s first multinational in the 1970s and today is a world leader in paper-based packaging. Gary McGann was made CEO in 2002.                  


Smurfit Kappa last month announced an operating profit of €477mn for the first nine months of 2011, an increase of 36% on the same period last year. A 12% increase in revenue for the packaging group led to revenues of €5.5bn. This was achieved despite difficult conditions and downward pressure on paper prices in Europe.  Smurfit Kappa also won two awards at the recent PPI Awards, which recognises achievements within the global paper and packaging sector.

Gary McGann has been vital to the continued success of the group since being made CEO in 2002 and presiding over important transitional periods such as the company’s merger and subsequent IPO.

Innovation and sustanability

Following the announcement of the Q3 figures Gary McGann said: “Over the past four years, we have strengthened our business platform through significant debt paydown and unrelenting cost reduction actions, which will sustain the delivery of strong cash flows and improving returns through the cycle.

He continued: “We are committed to continue building our strong market credentials in the areas of packaging innovation, customer service and sustainability. In that context, despite softening demand, we expect to deliver a full-year 2011 EBITDA performance in line with current market expectations, and re-affirm our target to reduce net debt to €2.85bn by the year end.”


Headquartered in Dublin, Smurfit Kappa is a world leader in paper-based packaging and operates out of 30 countries across Europe and Latin America where it is the only pan-regional operator.

The company originates from the small box makers Jefferson Smurfit & Sons which was founded in 1934 and grew to become one of Ireland’s leading multi-national companies. In 2005, the Smurfit Kappa Group was created when the Jefferson Smurfit Group (JSG) merged with Dutch rival Kappa and returned to the market as Smurfit Kappa. The merger made Smurfit Kappa twice as big as its nearest competitor in Europe.

In 2007, the Smurfit Kappa Group was successfully listed on the Dublin and London Stock Exchanges. Since the IPO in 2007 the group’s net debt has reduced by approximately €630mn, materially improving its capital structure and financial flexibility.


Gary McGann was educated through Irish at Coláiste Mhuire in Dublin before studying at University College Dublin where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Accountants and also earned a Masters in Management Science (IMI/TCD).

McGann was appointed JSG CEO in November 2002. He was previously president and COO of the Smurfit Group since January 2000. He joined the company in 1998 as chief financial officer. He had held a number of senior positions in both the private and public sectors over the previous 20 years, including chief executive of Gilbeys of Ireland and Aer Lingus Group plc. He is also chairman of Aon McDonagh Boland and a director of United Drug plc.

CV highlights

  • Made CEO of Jefferson Smurfit Group 2002.
  • Chairman of AON Ireland and director of United Drug plc.
  • Former president of Ibec.

Merc logoBusiness & Finance, Business Person of the Month

Business & Finance, in association with MERC Partners, has been awarding excellence in business through the ‘Business Person of the Month’ award over the last number of years. These awards seek to recognise noteworthy achievements in business leadership, and particularly those that make a telling contribution to the wider business community in Ireland.