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Business News of Sunday, 7 August 2022


Ben Murray-Bruce: The ‘Common Sense’ man who built one of Nigeria’s biggest media conglomerates

Although Ben Murray-Bruce is a successful businessman, entrepreneur, politician and activist, the term “Common Sense Senator” became a fond term to describe him due to the common sense series he produced on Silverbird Television.

His career and business growth have seen a progression that started from the civil service, into personal business, a conglomerate, and later on, politics. He is the founder and chairman of the Silverbird Group, the holding company for Silverbird Television, Rhythm FM, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and Silverbird Film Distribution.

Birth and Education

He was born on February 18, 1956 to Mullighan and Margaret Murray-Bruce, both indigenes of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. His father was a public servant who worked with the UAC. Ben’s formative years were spent in Lagos State where he grew up, and he attended Our Lady of Apostles Primary School, Yaba and St. Gregory College Obalende.

His initial career dream was to become a professor of History. At some point, he worked in Domino Stores, a departmental store owned by his father, while trying out other things like dancing. But this did not go down well with his father. He would later recount that when his father saw him dancing, he threatened him with the words; “If I ever catch you dancing, you’ll never use those legs again.”

After obtaining his West African School Certificate (WASC), he travelled to the United States of America to pursue his first degree at the University of South Carolina. He graduated in 1979, with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.

Returning to Nigeria after his schooling, Ben Murray Bruce got employed in the civil service. Murray-Bruce worked his way up the civil service ladder, rising to become the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) between 1999 and 2003.

Early entrepreneurial moves

While still in the service, Murray-Bruce was already exhibiting traits typical of entrepreneurs. He started Silverbird magazine (now defunct) with his wife in 1980. This was quite the introduction to showbiz for him, and within a couple of years, he was promoting concerts.

He promoted the Miss Universe Nigeria pageant in 1983, Miss Intercontinental Pageant from 1986 to 1994, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant in 1986 and still does promotions of some of these concerts and pageants. The MBGN pageant has produced notable beauty Queens like Agbani Darego, Omasan Buwa, and Bianca Onoh.

His entry into the scene with some of these shows came at a point when the Miss Nigeria franchise was losing appeal, and Murray-Bruce was able to rekindle the interest in Nigerian pageants.

Silverbird Group

The business of Silverbird Productions started very much like an accident. While living in Los Angeles, the USA as a student, Ben had a stranger knock on his door one day. Even though it turned out he knocked on the wrong door, they got talking and Ben got to know that his new friend was one who hobnobbed with top names in the showbiz space, like Janet Jackson, Todd Bridges, Garry Coleman. From becoming friends with him, Murray-Brice got the opportunity to meet with lots of actors and actresses, and eventually when they proposed to do a show in Nigeria, it was only natural to partner with him.

And so, Silverbird Productions started in 1980 with N20, 000.00 in borrowed capital; a desk in a small corner of the Domino administrative office, six staff and only two business activities, pageant and programme syndication. It was from there that Murray-Bruce would grow the business into a conglomerate now having radio stations in different states, a television station, as well as several shows it promotes, especially the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria.

To crown it all, is the Silverbird Galleria, Silverbird Entertainment and the Silverbird Cinema which practically revolutionised cinema culture in Nigeria. Silverbird Cinema was the first Cinema multi-plex with five screens in Nigeria and has established cinema houses all over the country.

Positions served & Other interests

With his strong background in showbiz and media, it comes as no surprise that Ben Murray-Bruce has served and still sits on some notable boards and committees. He has served on the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), Federal Films Censors Board (FFCB), the Board of National Arts Theatre (BNT), National Film Distribution Company (NFDC) and Nigerian Anti-Piracy Action Committee(NAPAC).

He has also served as Executive Director – Black Music Association of America with Quincy Jones, Dick Griffey, Stevie Wonder, as well as Executive Director – Coalition for a Free Africa with the late President Samora Machel of Mozambique.

Having recorded significant success in his career and business, Ben Murray-Bruce ventured into politics in 2011, and after some years, secured the Senatorial ticket to represent Bayelsa East on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He won the election and has since then been known as Senator Ben Murray-Bruce.

He is a motivational speaker as well, and a director on the board for a number of companies, home and abroad. Ben Murray Bruce withdrew from the race to return to the Senate for a second term in 2019 on the grounds of the local rotational arrangement.

Awards & Recognition

Senator Ben Murray-Bruce received the “Officer of the Order of the Niger” award in 2014. Prior to this, he had also received other recognitions including the Excellent Personality Award” in 2009; “Champion for Nation Building Award” in 2007; “Life Achiever Award” and Top Ten “Significant Nigerian Businessmen Award” in 2006. He was also Showbiz Icon of the Year in 2005.