Smurfit Says He’ll ‘Survive’ After Pension Fund ‘Decimated’

Michael Smurfit, one of Ireland’s richest men and former chairman of Smurfit Kappa Group Plc., said the financial crisis “decimated” his pension fund.

Smurfit, 74, said his bank shares are “of course worthless” as stocks fell. Ireland’s five-member ISEF financial index has plunged 97 percent since 2007.

“ I’ll survive,” said Smurfit, in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television in Monaco. “ I started with very little and when you start the way I do, you have a certain amount of caution and I still have that.”

Ireland can “bounce back” after securing a 67 billion euro ($90 billion) international aid package, Smurfit said. The economy has shrunk about 15 percent since 2007 and the government will today detail 6 billion euros worth of spending cuts and tax increases, as it grapples with the implosion of a decade-long real estate boom.

“I knew we were going to have a crisis, a property bubble,” Smurfit said. “But I didn’t know the extent of it. I missed it.”

Smurfit bought Ireland’s K-Club golf course with property developer Gerry Gannon in 2005, and hosted golf’s Ryder Cup there the following year. He and Gannon are now in talks with Ireland’s so-called bad bank, National Asset Management Agency, about the club, which “hopefully” will be run as a business “as usual,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll get out of the crisis,” he said.

Smurfit’s box-making business was sold to Chicago-based buyout firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC for 2.46 billion euros in 2002. It was then merged with Dutch company Kappa Packaging in December 2005. Smurfit stepped down as chairman in 2007 as Smurfit Kappa raised 1.5 billion euros in a share sale. Smurfit Kappa has risen 21 percent in Dublin trading over the last year.

Over the last four years, the Smurfit’s family wealth dropped to 335 million euros, according to the Sunday Times 2010 Rich List, published in April, which ranked them as the 24th richest in Ireland. In 2006, the family was worth an estimated 403 million euros, according to the London-based newspaper.

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