From William Hamilton (1806-1865), the exceptional mathematician, physicist, astronomer and innovator, to William Lecky (1838-1903), the Anglo-Irish historian and essayist, Naughton has certainly found himself in august company. An engineer by profession, Dr. Naughton, founded the electrical appliance firm Glen Electric in November 1973 in Newry, Co Down. Employing just ten people to start with, his first business plan deliberately set out to expand to accommodate 100 employees, with the clear objective of not exceeding that number. His philosophy was that a successful company needed to focus on its efficiency, not on size.
It seems that Naughton has achieved both. His company is now the world’s largest manufacturer in domestic heating appliances. With operations in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and North America, he employs more than seven thousand staff and owns twenty-two manufacturing facilities. His brands include Morphy Richards, Dimplex, Roberts Radio, Goblin and Belling.
It is estimated that annual sales amount to around $1 billion. Following significant expansion in the Chinese market, Naughton’s seventy-four percent stake in the company has increased to the value of £273 million, notwithstanding other investments, including an art collection, three office buildings in Dublin and shares in both the Merrion Hotel Group and the Sunday Tribune newspaper.
Born in 1940 in Dundalk, County Louth and educated in De La Salle College Dundalk, this Irish entrepreneur has come a long way since the foundation of his first, humble business establishment in Newry thirty-eight years ago. In 1985 alone, his company had incorporated Morphy Richards, the market leader in small domestic appliances, shortly followed by Blanella, a manufacturer of electric blankets and Burco Dean Appliances, a manufacturer of products for the catering industry.
Creativity, innovation, and a keen entrepreneurial flare has made this global company what it is. Martin Naughton’s management ability has been key to its success. He rarely uses the word “I” when referring to the company; it‘s always “we”. He has been heard to say, “someone who can‘t delegate is a menace. You give someone the responsibility and then the authority; tell them to do it, and it’s their show.”
“For those of us who have been successful in life, rather than sitting back criticising the government about what is not being done, we should put our money where our mouth is, and help to prepare the country for the challenges that lie ahead.”
Naughton is a true philanthropist, as we can see through his generous donation to support nanoscience research in Trinity College. Announcing his gift he said, “this is not only a flagship project for Trinity but one for Ireland as well, and one that I am unhesitatingly enthusiastic about. There is no doubt that nanotechnology will make a great impact on our lives, and if we grasp this opportunity, we can establish Ireland as a world leader in one of the most important fields of innovation. Rarely does a university get a chance like this and I’m delighted to be able to help.” As a result of Naughton’s €5 million philanthropic donation, Trinity has been able to confirm its position as one of the world’s leading universities in this field, which was one of the goals set down in the College’s Strategic Plan.
According to the Provost, “Trinity has recently built up a critical mass of world-class expertise in nanoscience by establishing our Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN). Over the last few years we have attracted a number of superb people in the area, who have been externally assessed as one of the best groups in the world.”
In commenting on the essential need for private funding for programmes like this, Dr Naughton added: “For those of us who have been successful in life, rather than sitting back criticising the government about what is not being done, we should be prepared to put our money where our mouth is, and support visionary projects that will prepare our country for the challenges that lie ahead.”
It is not surprising then that he is Chairman of Intertrade Ireland, one of the six cross-border bodies established under the Belfast Agreement to enhance the global competitiveness of the all-island economy. Perhaps under his chairmanship, Naughton can work towards peaceful co-operation through economics.Martin Naughton, notwithstanding his publicity-shy reputation, gives extensively of his time, energy and experience to developing the business reputation and business ethos of the Island of Ireland. He has remarked, “the Republic of Ireland is recognised world-wide as an entrepreneurial economy, what I want is the whole island to be an entrepreneurial island.”
Some would question whether it is appropriate to name one of Trinity’s buildings after a businessman. Perhaps it could be argued that Trinity is selling its soul, as it becomes more like a business, willing to sell the names of its buildings to the highest bidder. However, Naughton appears to have the best interests of the country and the College at heart. The story of his success and philanthropy are an inspiration to aspiring young businesspeople and scientists alike.