Ben Murray-Bruce had prior to his birthday stopped by at New York on his way to Los Angeles for a chat with Nduka Nwosu. He spoke on a number of issues including his encounter with great men and how each had influenced his life
It is a fitting narrative that the global brand Silverbird Group runs a vibrant studio in Los Angeles in the US. Dream Magic Studios parades two stations and live television shows. The man at the helm of affairs expectedly is Jareth Murray Bruce, a musician and the second child of Senator Ben Murray Bruce. Dream Magic had earlier bought its first studio from Larry Flint, built a second studio while trying to set up a production business.
Back home and among other business interests under the group is the cinema chain managed by executive director Jonathan Murray Bruce the first son of the Senator.
Indeed the Silverbird Group will remain a case study of a successful family business beginning with the Domino Stores currently chaired by Michael Murray Bruce. As Philomena Hammond (nee Murray Bruce) would put it, the direct descendants of William Mully Murray Bruce have all at one time or the other worked at Domino to earn their pocket monies. While Port Harcourt based real estate magnate Francis Murray Bruce as a young man resigned his lucrative job to assist his father grow Domino, Michael returned from his American sojourn to boost the quality of the work staff while Ben, the young and vibrant turk of the clan, could not make meaning from selling soap and Bournvita, quoting Philomena again. So he floated Silverbird hoping he would be a famous publisher starting with the defunct Silverbird magazine. That in itself is history but we know what he eventually made of that brand name over the years.
With Silverbird, Guy and Roy are leading the grandchildren of William to chart a new course, and as the famous writer would say, those paths that have never been travelled or more appropriately that route that is less charted.
There was William whose two ancestries back in Scotland and the waterside section of the Delta Region, thrive on common sense with a business savvy that leans on the Scriptural miracle of wine and bread. Taken a little further is the Jewish philosophy of minimum inputs and maximum returns. It is an attribute of common sense that when a son listens to the several admonitions of a father, he would go places. Indeed this child Ben has wined and dined with many a President, great men and women with clean hands.
So it was that on a fine summer morning when the legendary patriarch was taking his son Benjamin to school something caught his attention and he wanted to share what to most common folks of the neighborhood could have been a façade, to others a symmetry of everyday life. For William the collage registered effectively on the human canvas where the passage of imageries translates to lessons that guide good decision making and judgement of events around us. The young boy Benjamin took a deep note of the observation and stored it away in memory lane.
Says Murray Bruce: “My father used to drive me to school Our Lady of Apostles Yaba; one day he looked out through the door and said: ‘Ben: look at that kid over there. He only has his pants and bag on his way to school. Never be mean to any human being.” I said yes papa. He said: ‘You see that kid over there, that kid could be the next President of Nigeria. Never disrespect any human being.’ Now we know who was a very good friend and still is to a former shoeless pupil who bought the tenancy at Aso Rock for six years!
William Mully Murray Bruce, a devoted Rotarian, according to his son made friends with his staff especially those he called regular people. As a governorship candidate his advisers were the everyday people who show up for work and are proud doing their jobs. Members of his kitchen cabinet included drivers, his body guards at Silverbird, waiters at restaurants, His argument resonates with the man on the street, the people he wants to change their lives and not the scientists, donor agencies and rich people who would stay at a talk shop to discuss statistics and demography.
“I will talk to the poor man on how to fix the problem in the ghetto, not a rich man. That is my philosophy.”
But that is politics and the patriarch was known for his business sense, not politics. While Murray Bruce inherited the business sense from his father Pa William who passed on in 1996, the political side of his DNA comes from his ancestors on the Scottish and Welsh side. Needless to say his entry into the Niger Delta region opened the way for the grandfather and father of William Mully Murray Bruce into the region.
While Ben has conquered two territories, his father settled for one, an inheritance he passed on to his children with common sense as the underlying philosophy. The value of money has helped build a thriving business empire, which the patriarch lived to witness. As his own way of saying thank you dad, Murray Bruce bought a Rolls Royce for him only to hit a brick wall until after much persuasion
How about a jet as an additional toy to such vanities as limousines long abandoned for beauty queens, yachts and jetties as well as mansions of delight, all the elements at Vanity Fair? He shrugs it off, reminding you he wears simple clothes and watches and would only consider a Silverbird Airlnes if the prospects are viable. Viability for Murray Bruce means the inputs must yield expected returns in minimum time. He hardly discusses his ornament of delight in the public space but talking about his wife Evelyn, Murray Bruce had this to say:
“I am very fortunate to marry a woman who is no different from members of my family. She comes from a very humble background. When I met her I was 19 and I wanted to know a little bit more about her and her family. A lot of people make mistakes when they get married. They get into dysfunctional relationships. So I wanted to see her mum, I wanted to see her dad. She took me to a small town called Valdosta in Southern Georgia, 12 miles from Northern Florida and I went to her home, small house and a big farm that has been with the family for 300, 400 years, it goes back to slavery.
“I saw the way they lived and I saw the respect the mother had for the father and the father had for the mother. I saw the way all the children were raised, so similar to the way my family, the way my father and my mother raised us. It’s a big family, beautiful children, all happy, living together as one. When you want to get married, you don’t get married to someone with a dysfunctional family because it could work; if doesn’t work you have a problem.
“So I met her, I met the family, got married and I’m still married, almost forty years. The point is, marriage is not something you do by mistake or by accident. You plan it and I planned it to perfection and I’m happy. She is a wonderful woman, beautiful woman, always been with me. When I was 19 I said to myself when I become an old man, will this woman look after me?
“When the kids are born will she look after the children? In my mind at 19 I said yes I proposed to her at 19, got married, almost 40 years later we are still married, she still looks after me and the children. Yes, I think I got that right. With three wonderful kids-Jonathan, Jareth, Jasmine who is running a Master’s programme and the last a boy, Murray Bruce whose best friends are children says: “I am happy the way I am and I am very grateful to God.”
Along the way Murray Bruce has met an array of statesmen home and abroad and each has had a tremendous influence on him including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo whom he worked for and lived with in Aso Rock and Goodluck Jonathan.
As a child he was influenced by Chief Obafemi Awolowo who taught him the beauty in fiscal discipline while Obasanjo’s low profile governance in his first incarnation as Head of State reminded him of his father. Muhammad Ali is his role model of a black man who preached love and oneness and the greatness of the black race just like Martin Luther King (Jnr).