Ben Proved Dad Wrong
Guy Murray Bruce is Ben's younger brother. But besides being his close confidant, he is also a partaker in the Silverbird dynasty. Quite understandably, Guy says Ben became the success he is because of his incredible ability to fit into any environment and make the best of it.
Moreover, Ben has got the rare quality of generosity that makes him fit into other people's business as helping hand as if he were doing it wholeheartedly for himself, so concludes his brother and business partner.
But when Ben first ventured into what has given him fame today, he lost as much as N12,000, a huge amount of money then. His dad who he relied on to a large extent to fund his business at just 23 could not understand why his ambitious young son should flush such money down the drain and convince anybody that he was on the right business track.
He saw him as derailing and the venture not worth continuing with. Guy who was with his elder brother when all these happened was like a close confidant of the dad who intoned his reservations. He was young, but still remembered to ask dad to give Ben some chance to prove his point by continuing with what he feels he can do well.
He thinks today that the restless young man with an eye for entertainment after the tumbling and fumbling has proved Dad's guess wrong. The young man who dreamed 26 years ago to have his own TV station, over 20 years after actualized the longing. He has a radio station in addition, and is still expanding his horizon in the entertainment world. It would not be far from the mark to situate that Ben Bruce is the biggest investor in the entertainment sector in Nigeria's economy today.
When he recently turned 50, his brother, who padded the streets of Lagos seeking for a foothold in entertainment business feels Ben has carved a niche for himself and deserves garlands for weathering the storm and tide of the business jungle to come this far. He spoke with Saturday Sun in details.
Dad and Ben's business
”I remember the first show we had. It was called Root, Rock and Soul. We lost about N12,000. And my dad said to me why would Ben make us lose so much money? For him, nobody is in business to lose but make money. So he could not understand why we lost that kind of money. I was very young but I said to him, Dad, that is show biz. I also asked him to give Ben another chance. But he asked, “at whose expense? In my little innocence at that time, I told him that Ben needed to be encouraged. And he left it at that. But at the end of the day, after so many successes, dad became quite proud of Ben. You know what the saying is, nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
On Ben as an individual, Guy thinks his openness with people, in conjunction with his ability to relate normally with everybody irrespective of the social class is a special quality he has going for him. “Ben is the type that can relate quite effortlessly with the guy at the top or the one at the bottom. He could talk to taxi drivers like he could with my father's friends, who were MDs of banks and multi-national companies. He gets along with everybody and he doesn't really care who he is speaking with - high or low. He simply and naturally relates easily with everyone”.
Entertainment, his life
“He's done a great deal in the entertainment field. In the early days of bringing foreign acts into the country, it was an eye-opener in the country. People saw these acts for the first time in Nigeria, not so much for being the first, but for its continuity for three years. It exposed Nigerians to a lot of foreign acts. I am sure it encouraged lots of local talents, here in Nigeria, to develop themselves to become better artistes. I think it inspired a lot of folks and a lot of young artists who became good afterwards. That was the beginning, and the advent of getting private radio and TV licences just opened up more opportunities for the artistes to be heard on radio and seen on TV.
So the three media we have now add to the background in which we started off from, which is the promotion of foreign acts.
At 50, I would say he has achieved a whole lot. It is quite amazing that at the tender age of 23, he was bold enough to bring foreign artistes into Nigeria, single handedly, and against all odds. He was able to prove at that time that it was a good business venture. Maybe it was not an easy business but he proved that it was a profitable one. My father didn't think it was a desirable venture to get into. May be because it hadn't really taken root in Nigeria. It was like going into a business no one knew anything about. We are talking about 1980. Ben came on, tried it and the rest is history.
Too much for too few
There is nothing controversial about what we do here because at the end of the day, they seem conventional. But when we first started, nothing was conventional because before you think you've finished one project, another one came in.
There were many projects that we tried our hands on but failed. There are quite a number of others that have succeeded. He is the kind of guy who gives you one task and gives you another before you are half-way into the first. It goes on and on until they pile up together. But there is strength and weakness in them. It is strength in that if out of 10, you succeed in one, you've done good. It is a weakness in the sense that if you do too many, you are not likely to focus on any one of them. We are used to our styles now and we face new challenges everyday.
Come to think of how siblings work as a team devoid of rivalry and bickering. Guy sees no problem in that, but would admit willingly that squabbles arise, but are effectively tamed before they get wild. “Actually, we work as a family. But there is no such thing in the world as a perfect family. The best we do is to try to contain our problems within ourselves. In that way, we've managed it so far. Then of course, there are ups and downs. There is no way you can have a system without its problems. No matter what you do, you must have differences. But we always find a way to confine such differences among ourselves”.
We take things one at a time. Many years ago, it was a dream for Ben to own a TV station. This was in 1980 when he came back from the US. At that time, it was a mere dream but it has become a reality. Before then, he was involved in basically, show business and entertainment. There was a time we would want to plan a pageant and people would say, “you guys can organize a pageant, but what are the chances that you will win any international pageant? It was a dream for us to win some years later. It seemed so remote at a time.
But sooner than we thought, we won the Miss World Pageant against all odds. There are some big dreams we had but to the average Nigerian, they were unrealistic. Before we became a democratic country in 1999, we were not reckoned with in any part of the world. They looked down on us. But winning a Miss World pageant, for example, and the girl coming from our pageant and country, made me proud. It made the country prominent too. Nigeria became prominent in the beauty pageant world and suddenly, our country became one to be reckoned with. We are putting Nigeria on the map - promoting her.
He admits three of the six siblings that are in entertainment are more noticeable than the rest, and attributes this to the manner of business they do. “ We are the ones who work in the company. We are directors and then we've got a lot of the works. That is why we seem to be more prominent. It doesn't mean that the others are not working.
It is just that we are in the industry. That's why we tend to be more visible than the others. Our being more together does not mean that we don't bow to them or get advice from them. Without them, believe me, we would find it difficult to move on well. They are the key to the whole operation.