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A Life Worth Living: The Autobiography

A Life Worth Living: The Autobiography
Our Price:  €24.95(VAT Free)

ISBNs:  9781781190128 Hb / 1606 Pb / 0135 epub
Year Published:  2014
Author:  Michael Smurfit
Hardback:  24.95
Paperback:  10.00
ePub ebook:  10.00


In A LIFE WORTH LIVING Michael Smurfit tells his own life story and that of the company he built. He documents the Smurfit Group’s seemingly inexorable growth from humble beginnings, the challenges faced and overcome, and the many deals that continually doubled the size of the business every three or four years. He shows his ‘logical opportunism’ in action, and explains how the Smurfit culture and systems provided a world-beating competitive advantage.

Born in St Helens, Lancashire in August 1936, Michael Smurfit joined his father’s business, Jefferson Smurfit & Sons Ltd. in Dublin, straight from school to learn the papermaking business ‘from the bottom up’. Two years after the company floated on the Irish Stock Exchange, Michael and his brother Jeff became Joint Managing Directors, as Jefferson Senior took on the role of Chairman and Chief Executive. Then followed 30 years of acquisitions, as the Jefferson Smurfit Group became Ireland’s first multinational company and one of the largest paper and packaging companies in the world. On the way, he was recognised as Global CEO of the Year (1999), knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II (2005) and awarded honours by France, Spain, Monaco and Colombia. In 2002, Michael took the Smurfit Group private, retiring as CEO but remaining Chairman. In this role, he steered a merger with Kappa Packaging BV, which successfully refloated in 2007 as Smurfit Kappa Group.

Michael’s life outside Smurfit – his chairmanship of the Racing Board and of Telecom Éireann; his interest in horseracing; and his ownership of The K Club and the triumph that was the Ryder Cup 2006 – all feature, alongside his love and commitment to his family. 

Truly a life worth living.






I            FOUNDATIONS

1: John Jefferson Smurfit: A Hard Act to Follow

Dad’s Early Days

My Grandmother’s Survival Plan

Football & Dad’s First Job

A Tailor-made Offer

Love & Marriage

Falling Out

Jeff Smurfit Limited, Creator of Good Clothes


2: Boxing Clever

A Factory in Dublin


Opportunity Beckons

Dad’s Army

The Impact of War

My Earliest Memories

Jefferson Smurfit & Sons Limited

3: Growing Up

Brothers & Sisters


Simple Lives

A Growing Business

Disaster Strikes ...

... But Opens New Vistas

Investment in Our Education

Trips with Dad

The Ups & Downs of Business

4: Steps Towards Independence

Dreams of Canada

In the Sanatorium

Back to Work ...

... And Then to America

How I Got My E-Type



5: Starting Out On My Own

A Lesson Learnt in London


Jefferson Smurfit (Packaging) Limited

A Friendly Investment

Hard Work Pays Off

6: A Family Man



Children Arrive

Success Dawns

7: Taking Charge

“Come Back to Ireland”

Thinking of Take-overs

Merger Negotiations

Dad’s Second Surprise

8: Making a Life in Ireland

Socialising in Dublin

Broadening Horizons

Time for the Family


‘Troubles’ at Home

9: Take-over Time

On the Take-over Trail

The Hely Group

Dominating the Market

Take-overs in the UK

Growth in the UK

Nigeria Proves Profitable

Bringing Howard on Board

Back in Ireland



10: Into America

Continental Can Company

How the Swedes Funded Our US Expansion

Time Industries

Business Goes On

Back to America

Alton Box Board

Change Everywhere

11: More Deals

Diamond International

Mixing with Maxwell


Review & Re-organisation

The Smurfit Group Hits 50

12: American Expansion – North & South

The Big Opportunity

Twists in the Tail

Into the First Division

Success in Latin America



13: Personal Upheavals & Interests

Dad’s Death

Another Shock: Jeff’s Death

A New Woman in My Life

A New Life

Norma’s Success

Personal Interests

Trouble at TMG

Your Man in Monaco

14: Telephone Troubles

Reforming Telecom

Working with the Unions

How Things Worked (Or Didn’t)

Risking My Life

Investing in the Future

An Unhappy Ending

15: Racing Ahead

My Early Days as an Owner

Fournoughts & Classic Thoroughbreds

The Melbourne Cup

Win Some, Lose More

Running the Racing Board

16: A Golfing Triumph

The Seed of an Idea

Straffan House

The K Club

Getting the Ryder Cup

A Dream Comes True

Pre-Ryder Cup Challenges

On the Day

Highlights of the Ryder Cup 2006

It Was Special!




17: Europe in Our Sights

Troubles in Spain

Meeting Murdoch

The Rise & Rise of Smurfit

Opportunities Down Under

The Worse It Is, the Better It Gets

Cellulose du Pin

A Key Appointment

18: Creating a Defining Moment

Creating Smurfit-Stone

Managing Smurfit-Stone

Entering China

Disagreement on Direction

Smurfit-Stone & Asia

Industry Recognition

Prelude to a Sale

19: Taking Smurfit Private

Facing Criticism

Logical Opportunism

Enter Madison Dearborn

Going Private

Business as Usual

20 : The Final Deal

A Necessary Merger

Smurfit Kappa

“This Is For Dad”

21: The Smurfit Culture

Vision & Leadership

The Right People

Integrity & Ethics

Corporate Governance

Our Raison d’Être

22: The Smurfit System

Control Systems

Making Deals Work

The Anatomy of a Deal

Looking Back

23: Reflections in Retirement

My Wonderful Family

Personal Improvement

I am Who I am

Understanding & Respecting the Capital Markets

Adapting to Retirement

My Russian Connection

People in My Life

Ireland’s Future

The Challenge of a Legacy



Jefferson Smurfit Group History



A LIFE WORTH LIVING is a page-turner … a fascinating story, just the present for one’s favourite entrepreneur.

The Market, Enterprise Ireland, Summer 2014


He is undoubtedly one of the greatest business leaders in Irish history, a superb deal-maker who has improved the lives of millions. … Smurfit provides chapter and verse on how he built up Ireland’s first-ever multinational corporation.

Andrew Lynch, The Sunday Business Post, 4 May 2014


… it should be required reading for any aspiring young business man or woman in Ireland.

Sean Farrell, Irish Independent, 5 April 2014


The book gives many insights into the growth of the Smurfit Group’s empire over the years, its roots, its key move into the US, where it was taken private, and the subsequent float as Smurfit Kappa.

Ex Post Facto, The Sunday Business Post, 6 April 2014


In the book, he shows his ‘logical opportunism’ in action and explains how the Smurfit culture and systems provided a world-beating competitive advantage.

Social & Personal, May 2014


Was Michael Smurfit Ireland’s greatest businessman of the last century? There are certainly very few like him, or even close.

Tom Lyons, The Irish Times, 3 April 2014

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