Who will be the Business Person of the Year?

The 12 leading business people nominated for the 2023 Business Person of the Year by The Irish Times, in association with Bank of Ireland.

Each month The Irish Times selects its Business Person of the Month, an award run in association with Bank of Ireland

This Thursday (22 February) the full year of 2023 monthly winners will vie for the title Business Person of the Year.

In addition, four businesses have been shortlisted for the Local Business Award, which is also sponsored by Bank of Ireland.

Group of men in black tie. Bank of Ireland chief of staff and head of Corporate Affairs Oliver Wall, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, TD; 2022 Business Person of the Year Barry Connolly, co-founder of Fulfil Nutrition; and business editor of The Irish Times Ciaran Hancock

Business Person of the Year nominees

Paul Marchant, Primark

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The Irish Times Business Person of the Month in January 2023 was Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, owner of Penneys.

In a trading update on 24 January, the retailer’s listed parent company, Associated British Foods, said Primark had traded “ahead of expectation” last year, including “a very strong Christmas period.”

Primark’s like-for-like sales were 11% ahead, “supported by higher unit volumes, higher average selling prices and a normalised level of markdown”. The company said its sales in the week leading up to Christmas Day “reached a new record.”

Chupi Sweetman, Chupi Jewellery

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The Business Person of the Month for February was entrepreneur Chupi Sweetman, founder and CEO of Chupi Jewellery.

In February, Chupi announced that it had secured €3.75m in new equity and debt funding to fuel its ambitious growth plans for Ireland and the UK.

The group, which makes all of its products in Ireland with recycled, post-industrial gold, said the funds would be used to expand Chupi’s retail operation as well as its digital offering. This includes augmented and virtual reality systems used to assist customers with choice and sizing. It currently exports to 69 countries.

Tom Keogh, Keogh’s Farm

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In March Tom Keogh, managing director of Keogh’s Farm, was named Business Person of the Month.

During that month Keogh revealed that his business was planning to invest “towards €10m” on a new greenfield production facility to meet growing demand for its products.

Keogh’s Farm forecasts revenue growth of 20% for this year, following a rise of 30% last year. The US export market was the standout performer for Keoghs Farm, with revenue there nearly doubling.

Patrick J Rigney and Denise Rigney, Shed Distillery

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In April, Patrick J Rigney and Denise Rigney, co-founders of the The Shed Distillery Of PJ Rigney in Co Leitrim, were selected The Irish Times Business People of the Month.

Based in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, the Shed Distillery was founded by the husband-and-wife team and produces gin, vodka and whiskey products, with its Gunpowder Gin the flagship brand.

It also operates a visitor centre at the distillery, conducting about 25,000 tours last year. The company recently published its annual results, showing record turnover and profitability after another year of progress for the spirits maker.

Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia

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In May Siobhán Talbot, group managing director of Glanbia, was named Business Person of the Month.

Glanbia upgraded its full-year earnings guidance on an improved outlook for margins in its performance nutrition business in the second half of the year.

In an interim management statement for the three months ended 1 April 2023, the Irish listed nutrition group said it was increasing its expectations for growth to between 7% and 11% in adjusted earnings per share.

Talbot has led Glanbia since late 2013, successfully transitioning it from its traditional dairy roots to focus on nutrition.

Terry Clune, Clunetech

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Tech entrepreneur Terry Clune was chosen as the Business Person of the Month in June.

CluneTech group agreed to sell payroll software developer Immedis to US multinational UKG in a deal reported to be worth €575m.

Immedis, a subsidiary of Clune’s Kilkenny-based CluneTech business, sells software that aids companies in managing their payrolls efficiently across different countries and currencies.

Barry O’Sullivan, Diageo Ireland

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In July, the managing director of Diageo Ireland Barry O’Sullivan was selected as Business Person of the Month.

During July the drinks giant unveiled a €25m investment in its St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin to meet the rapidly growing demand for its non-alcoholic offering, Guinness 0.0.

The investment involved the installation of six new tanks towering 25m high and a new two-storey building at the brewery. Made in Germany, shipped into Dublin Port and Garda escorted to the brewery, they will have a total capacity of almost 90m pints and will ramp up production of the alcohol-free stout by 300%.

Marguerite Brosnan, AXA

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Marguerite Brosnan, chief executive of AXA  nsurance Ireland, was chosen as The Irish Times Business Person of the Month for August.

During the month, the French insurance giant agreed to buy Laya healthcare, the Republic’s second-largest health insurer, from a unit of US rival AIG, in a deal worth €650m.

It will mark Axa’s entry into the Irish private health insurance market, where its main rivals will be State-owned VHI and Irish Life Health.

Tony Smurfit, Smurfit Kappa

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September’s winner of The Irish Times Business Person of the Month was Smurfit Kappa chief executive Tony Smurfit.

In September, Dublin-based Smurfit Kappa agreed a deal to acquire WestRock in the United States to form what will become the world’s biggest packaging group.

This was essentially a takeover by Smurfit Kappa of WestRock with Tony Smurfit becoming chief executive of the enlarged group.

Dermot Crowley, Dalata

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In October, Dalata Hotel Group chief executive Dermot Crowley was named Business Person of the Month.

During that month Dalata announced that it had bought a development site in Edinburgh for a new hotel. This will involve an investment of £48m (€55m) as the Irish listed company expands its footprint in Scotland to three hotels.

Dalata’s new Edinburgh property is at 28 St Andrew’s Square, with the £12.5m purchase funded from the company’s existing cash and banking facilities.

Kieran Coffey and Fiona Kelleher, MyGug

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In November, Kieran Coffeey and Fiona Kelleher from MyGug were named Business People of the Month.

MyGug is an egg-shaped anaerobic digester that turns food waste into renewable energy and fertiliser. The company won the sustainability category at The Irish Times Innovation Awards last year.

The husband-and-wife team launched MyGug in February 2022 following four years’ development and an investment of €250,000, which was largely funded by the founders with support from Local Enterprise Office Cork North and West. The egg-shaped digester was designed by Coffey, who is a mechanical and environmental engineer, comes in various sizes and can be used to dispose of 99.9 per cent of food waste excluding bones and hard stones.

Barry Napier, Cubic Telecom

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In December, Cubic Telecom CEO Barry Napier was chosen as The Irish Times Business Person of the Month.

Just before Christmas, the Napier signed a deal to sell a controlling stake in Cubic to Japanese lender Softbank for €473m.

The deal – which values the company at around $1bn, giving it the coveted status of tech “unicorn” – is one of the biggest ever for an Irish-founded tech company. The businessman will remain in situ at the helm of the company he founded in 2005 and also retains a shareholding in the Irish tech group.

Local Business Award nominees

Four businesses from Dublin, Kerry and Wexford have been shortlisted for the Local Business Award category that will form part of The Irish Times Business Awards next month.

The Local Business Award category is also sponsored by Bank of Ireland.

The four businesses are:


Business owner with daughter and son.

Jim Leyden with his daughter Michelle and son James

After 40 years in business, Bizquip has built up a base in excess of 9,000 customers including Airbnb, Deloitte, Cairn plc and BNP Paribas.

The business was founded by MD Jim Leyden who is in the process of handing it over to his children James and Michelle.

The business is centred in Sandyford and specialises in commercial interiors, workplace technology and office supplies.

Workplace Technology has expanded to include video conference and collaboration solutions and business process automation, in addition to the more well known solutions including managed print services and document management. Since its inception, Bizquip has partnered with global leading manufacturers, and continues to do so.

The company’s commercial interiors business manages fashionable and functional furniture projects for companies nationwide, from SMEs to multinationals.

The Fish Box

Man and two women outside Fish Box restaurant in Dingle.

Micheál Flannery with his sister Eimear and mother Deirdre

Run by the Flannery family in Dingle, The Fish Box restaurant, aka Flannery’s Sea Food Bar, is an institution.

The family has been fishing the Kerry waters for more than 100 years.

The Fish Box was founded in 2018 by Micheál Flannery and his brother Patrick. Their mother Deirdre is the head chef.

Almost the entire menu comes from the day’s catch from the family’s own trawler which docks in Dingle..

The popularity of The Fish Box can be seen in the rave reviews and world-of-mouth praise from satisfied tourists and locals alike.

In recent years the restaurant was awarded the Best Seafood Restaurant Award at the La Chef Ireland Awards in recognition of the boat-to-plate approach that has been hugely successful for the Flannery family.

Killowen Farm Yoghurts

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Owners Nicholas and Judith Dunne took over Ireland’s oldest farmhouse yogurt in 2004 and in 2005, moved the yogurt production to their own dairy farm in Courtnacuddy, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

The Dunnes have been prominent farmers in the region for more than 200 years.

In 2022 the business revealed a €4m expansion that will see the dairy producer’s workforce almost double with the addition of 25 new jobs. It will also enable the business to grow its cream cheese production through the development of a new production line.

A breakthrough deal with ALDI in Germany opened the door for the business to export to Europe and today Killowen exports to international markets including Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.


Bearded man in black jacket and white shirt.

Nick Keegan,  founder and CEO, Mail Metrics

Founded in 2013 Mail Metrics has developed a technology solution to help organisations operating in highly regulated sectors to outsource & digitally transform their regulatory and customer communications.

Mail Metrics handles millions of business critical, regulatory and customer communications each year ranging from renewal notices, claims correspondence and billing information to general transactional customer communications.

Mail Metrics’ growth has been exponential, as evidenced by their revenue numbers which have gone from €1m in 2019, to a projected €40m by the end of 2023.

Main image at top: Oliver Wall, chief of staff and head of Corporate Affairs at Bank of Ireland speaking at the 2022 Business Person of the Year Awards

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.