Longtime Heinz Chairman/CEO Anthony O’Reilly Dies in Ireland at 88

May 24, 2024
He was an Irish rugby star, international business legend and the CEO who turned H.J. Heinz Co. into a global powerhouse.

Anthony O’Reilly, an Irish rugby star, international business legend and the CEO who made H.J. Heinz Co. a global powerhouse, died May 18 in his hometown of Dublin at the age of 88.

To most of the world, he was Sir Anthony O’Reilly (knighted in 2001), but in Pittsburgh he was Tony O’Reilly, the first non-Heinz family person to become chairman (also CEO) of the ketchup company.

Through acquisitions and joint ventures and using his global outlook, he shaped Heinz into the company it is – or at least was, until it was bought by Berkshire Hathaway and Brazil’s 3G Capital in 2013. Two years later, those two financial groups engineered its merger with Kraft to become Kraft Heinz Co.

After a hall of fame career in rugby, O’Reilly joined the Irish Dairy Board in 1962, and Wikipedia credits him with developing the Kerrygold brand for Irish export butter, which survives to this day. In 1966 he became managing director of the Irish Sugar Co., where he developed a joint venture with H.J. Heinz Co.

Turning down an offer to become Ireland’s minister for agriculture, O’Reilly joined Heinz in 1969, soon becoming managing director of the company’s UK subsidiary. He moved to Pittsburgh in 1971 when he was promoted to senior vice president for the North America and Pacific region, became COO and president in 1973, and CEO in 1979. He became chairman of Heinz in 1987, succeeding Henry John Heinz II.

All the while, he built his own international business empire, with involvement in Waterford Wedgewood Group, Independent News & Media and other British or European companies. O’Reilly left Heinz in 1998, succeeded by his deputy, William Johnson. Along the way, he sponsored and supported numerous charitable activities, both here in the U.S. and in the UK.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

Sponsored Recommendations

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Micro Motion™ G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meter

Micro Motion G-Series: market-leading compact design featuring advanced process diagnostic capability.

Embracing Sustainability using Advanced Measurement Instrumentation

A practical guide to greeningyour brewing operationsusing advanced measurementinstrumentation.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...