By Queen Martins
March 16, 2010 01:52AM
Running Silverbird, Nigeria's first all-round entertainment company is a daunting and time consuming task, as proven by Guy Murray-Bruce, who was unable to control the buzz of people coming in and out of his office and the beep of his phone as we got chatting. His jovial attitude and humorous approach to things make conversation with him flow easy.
Since the 1980s, the Silverbird Group has grown to become one of the most influential and respected entertainment conglomerates on the African continent. As of today, the company has launched cinemas, malls, a television station, radio stations and of course, the pageants.
Presently, the vice president of the group, Guy gives an insight into its operations and the various positions he has held there. After studying at the Simpson College in Iowa and California State University, both in the US, he returned to Lagos one afternoon in January 1992 and resumed work at Silverbird.
He started as Executive Director, Silverbird Productions, which comprised television syndication and the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant. In 1997, he became the vice president of Silverbird Communications i.e. Rhythm 93.7FM and in 2003, president, Silverbird Entertainment. These positions and the attendant responsibilities have meant less time to socialise. “What I do since there is no time to have fun is that I make my job fun.”
Entertainment – the fun job
As president of Silverbird Entertainment, Guy is in charge of organising the pageants. The MBGN pageant, even though not a cash cow, is organised yearly. “The pageant does not make money, doesn't lose money, it simply breaks even. We use it as a platform to promote our other businesses,” he reveals. “We also use it as an avenue to help young ladies from obscurity realise their dreams much faster.”
Of all the beauty pageants- MBGN, Miss Silverbird International and Silverbird Female Model- MBGN is the flagship. “Everything we do is important but not as important as MBGN,” he confirms. “MBGN is a national event that comes up once in a year. It is a must we do because we have exclusive license to represent Nigeria both at Miss World and Miss Universe.”
Explaining why no other MBGN winner has been able to bring back the Miss World crown after Agbani Darego in 2001, Guy said, “It took us almost 20 years to get one title and some countries have been in business longer than us and have never won a title. It is tough to win one title many times in a period of 10 years and I also believe that other countries need the opportunity to have the exposure that we did.”
After Agbani won the crown, Nigeria was given the opportunity to host the Miss World pageant but things didn't quite pan out. “We semi-hosted the 2002 Miss World pageant in Nigeria,” he recalls. “The girls came here but half way through there was a crisis in either Kano or Kaduna, not sure where now; and the show was discontinued. We were just about to attend the Rivers State fashion show but had to abort and ship everyone back to London.”
Concerning this year's pageant, Guy said there will be innovative introductions. Naturally, he is keeping these close to his chest so that people can come and see for themselves. The next MBGN will be in the second week of May at the new Eko Hotel building which is still under construction. Preparing for MBGN and the aftermath of it, which is preparing the girls for Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Tourism and Miss ECOWAS is a lot of work.
Ploughing back to society
Talking about what Silverbird is doing in terms of social responsibility, he says, “Our pageant takes ordinary people and gives them exposure. These girls use their title as a platform to see the world. They become ambassadors for the country and it gives them the opportunity to meet with senior government officials. It's also a great opportunity to get jobs. For example, our first MBGN is in the House of Representatives and Agbani was just an ordinary girl from Port Harcourt who became MBGN and then Miss World. That is our social responsibility but unfortunately, it affects only a few people.”
The company run mainly by three brothers, Ben, Roy and Guy, has over the years grown in leaps and bounds. “We are all brothers, we all have our different ways of life but I think together we are a perfect bunch.”
This man, who is influenced by progressive leaders, tells us about some memorable events: “One that sticks out is Miss World. I can never forget having to move out of Nigeria to London because of the crisis. Another one was when we got the radio license. Also, winning the Miss World pageant was a milestone for us. Setting up a TV station and the cinemas are also things I remember very well.” And there's also Rhythm Unplugged, the company's prominent musical and comedy show. “It comes up five times a year in different parts of the country,” he says. “We do it in Benin, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Jos and Lagos.”
Unveiling the future
On what to expect from Silverbird, Guy Murray-Bruce says, “We are opening up cinemas in Accra and Nairobi. We also intend to open up new cinemas in other parts of Africa.” There is the new mall recently opened in Abuja, the Silverbird Entertainment Centre which has a 12 screen Cineplex with comfortable seats, a VIP lounge and bar. These are signs of things to come from the Bruce brothers.
Guy who eats, sleeps, drinks and lives Silverbird has a wife and kids he still cannot do without. “I have four kids, three girls and one boy and I love them. I also have one beautiful wife that is very patient, very understanding, encouraging and copes with all my nuances. Without her, I would be useless and not as successful. Without her what the hell would I wake up for?”