“Martin… my heartiest congratulations on this very special occasion. Tonight you are being honored by your peers, a recognition of your contribution not just to business but to the very many wonderful initiatives you have supported throughout your life… You set standards for excellence, for vision, for innovation, and for ethics. You set the pace for what all good companies should be striving for. Most of all, you have dealt with your success with dignity, modesty and an innate sense of what you can give back to society…I’m delighted to have this opportunity to congratulate you on your induction.”
Enda Kenny Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Ireland
Martin firmly believes that “your handshake or your word is a contract” and that integrity in business really is the only way. This more than anything else is what qualifies him for the Excellence Hall of Fame. His key rules for business are “play fair” and “focus on the bottom line”. This last one he sometimes paraphrases as “turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”.
Born in Dublin in 1939, Martin went to school in De La Salle College Dundalk. After school, he went on to train in aeronautical followed by mechanical engineering with a focus on industrial engineering at Southampton College of Technology (UK).
In 1961, he returned to Ireland to work for Shannon Pressed Steel, an American company, prior to joining G.E.C. Dunleer 6 months later, which marked the start of his exposure to the electrical appliance industry. Aged 21, he was their Industrial Engineering Manager running a department of 14 people, before going on to become Production Manager and later Works Manager.
In 1973, Martin became an entrepreneur when he established a small electrical appliance manufacturer, Glen Electric. While he nurtured the business – which had less than 10 employees at the time – he quickly learned the importance of brand and saw that organic growth needed to be supplemented with the acquisition. Four years after Glen Electric was founded, it acquired the much larger company Dimplex (the leading electrical heating brand in the UK) to form the Glen Dimplex Group.
Martin continued to grow the company by acquisition, adding Morphy Richards (the UK Leader in small domestic appliances) to its ranks as well as Blanella and Burco Dean Appliances in the 1980s. In 1990, the company started to expand across Europe when it purchased Siemens’ electrical heating business, KKW. It continued its international expansion the following year, acquiring another subsidiary of Siemens and the Canadian firm Chromalox. Since then, it has acquired at least one company a year, with its most recent acquisitions this year being in Australia and the UK.
Martin was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame in 1991, and today serves as one of its Trustees Emeriti.
In 1994, Martin and his wife, Carmel, established The Naughton Foundation to support arts and educational causes. Since 2008, the foundation has offered scholarships to encourage students to pursue studies in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects.
In 1995, Martin received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Trinity College, Dublin. He has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Notre Dame, University College Dublin, Queen University Belfast, the Ulster University of Coleraine, and Griffith College Dublin.
Martin was the inaugural Chairman of InterTrade Ireland, one of six all-island Irish bodies set up in 1999 by the British and Irish governments following the Belfast Agreement. He also served on Ireland’s Council of State for Mary McAleese during her first term (1997-2004) as President of Ireland.
In 2001, Martin founded the Naughton Art Gallery & Museum at Queen’s University, Belfast, as well as the Martin Naughton Chair in Business Strategy. He has donated significantly to the University’s Riddel Hall Business School. In 2006, in recognition of his long-standing support of the University of Notre Dame, they renamed their Keough Institute for Irish Studies the Keough-Naughton Institute.
Martin and Carmel are the main benefactors to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and, in 2008, they received the Prince of Wales Gold Medal for Arts Philanthropy from Prince Charles in recognition of their support of the theatre in Belfast. Subsequently, in Scotland, they funded the Prince‘s Drawing School – “Dimplex Studio” – as part of the Prince of Wales’ Dumfries House initiative.
Today, Glen Dimplex holds a portfolio of approximately 40 appliance manufacturers in countries stretching from the US to New Zealand. It is the world leader in domestic heating appliances as well as holding significant global market positions in domestic appliances, cooling and ventilation. It employs over 10,000 people working on 4 continents and has annual revenues in excess of 2 billion euro. It is now focusing on low-energy technologies to enable its customers to reduce costs and CO2 emissions and currently produces both solar water heaters and what it believes to be the most energy-efficient Air Source Heat Pumps made in the British Isles.
Martin was knighted by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2015. On the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office nomination form for his knighthood, it states that the Naughton contribution to the island of Ireland and the United Kingdom has been both inspirational and immense – all achieved with marked reticence and a moral dislike of undue publicity or acclaim.
In 2016, Martin took a step back from Glen Dimplex, giving control of it to his three children, and is taking more time to travel. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, awarded the Whitaker Award of the Irish Academy of Management, and both he and Carmel were named “Philanthropists of the Year” by the Community Foundation for Ireland. On November 11, Martin was awarded France’s highest national honor when he was made an Officier de la Legion d’Honneur.
In addition to travel and the arts, he enjoys watching rugby and the Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football.
In recognition of his outstanding business success, his never-ending pursuit of excellence, and the significant contributions he has made both to education and the arts and local economies in a number of countries, Martin was nominated for inclusion in the Institute’s Excellence Hall of Fame by Professor Patrick Frain (UCD) and was elected unopposed by its Fellows in November 2016. He was inducted to the Excellence Hall of Fame on February 15, 2017, at a ceremony held in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.