I am very sad to hear that Sean Breslin has died. Born in April 1947, news of his death was reported by his daughter Si0bhon on Sunday 22nd August, he passed away that morning.
He has a formative influence on my career, a kind and generous man who was greatly understood.
He built a great business in Gissings and was a fiercely proud Northern Irishman, Livery Man, Business Man and Family Man.
The diaspora of former Gissings’ employees who have achieved great things will testify that Sean was a profound influence.
Not everyone liked him and stories abound of his aberrant behavior. But people who knew him well – recognized a big spirit with an enormous capacity to give help to those who needed it.
The following biographical detail is taken from a corporate adviser article in 2008.
Sean went to school in Dundalk, Ireland – boxer Barry McGuigan is a family friend
1968 First job – Friends Provident and Century insurance Company in 1968 aged 19.
“I was a clerk in the life and pensions department for nine months.” 1969 Moved to Stenhouse, now Aon
October 1970 Set up Gissings.
“I was 23 years old and I had no fears. If you are not bowled when you are 23, Christ help you when you are 53. Gissings was just me at the time. I just wanted clients and I would do anything and everything, organising pensions, annuities, key man insurance.
“I started off insuring the lives of judges in big trials. They are old men and if they die during early trial than the expenses to lawyers can be huge. I made a reputation in key man insurance and ended up getting lots of mortgage business as a result. At that time there were government quotas, rationing of mortgages but I figured out how to get them for people. I first got a deal for a City guy where I got him a mortgage off an insurance company rather than a building society. He got a fixed rate of 6 per cent in 1971.
“In 1974 the oil crisis came along and the interest rate flew up to 18 per cent. This guy was laughing with his 6 per cent mortgage. I had got all his pals the same deal. They all thought the sun shone out of my proverbial.
Then I started getting into business I didn’t understand, so I thought I had better go and employ someone who does, otherwise I will be found out.
“I had been in business two years and I got cocky and bought a Bentley and an E-type Jag. I then got a letter in the post about something called corporation tax with a big bill. The next day I put an advertisement in the Sunday Times and sold both cars on the Monday. That shows you how naive I was.”
The Gissings name
“The Gissings name comes from an old man I knew called Max Gissing. He was the department general manager of Norwich Union at the time. He was a fire and marine man. He came on the phone and asked for advice on a pension when I was at Stenhouse. He took me out for lunch to say thanks. I said I was leaving to set up on my own. I asked if he would like to be my chairman. I put his name first because he was older than me, and we then dropped my name altogether. He was salaried and stayed with me until he was 80. He would always insist on a monthly board meeting followed by a good lunch. He was a Norfolk man and I recently found out there is a village in Norfolk called Gissing.
“Seeing the company and myself last this long. When I was young I thought people who were 35 were close to death. I’m amazed that I am still here, 38 years later.”
“I am married with four children and four grandchildren. They give me a lot of pleasure.”
“I love motor racing, not Formula One, that is boring. I am actively involved. I race in the Nordschleife, in Nuremberg. In the Eiffel mountains in Germany. We race BMWs and Porsche 911s. My son, Sean Paul Breslin, was a champion out there last year.”
“I enjoy eating and drinking and go to the gym 4-5 times a week. I have had the same personal trainer for 20 years now. He is getting old with me.”
Please feel free to post in comments, I will try to build a better picture of the man and his legacy over the coming weeks.