Ben Murray-Bruce – Silverbird Group
Benedict Murray-Bruce was born on February 18, 1956 in Lagos to an Ijaw parent Mullighan and Margaret Murray-Bruce from Akassa, Bayelsa State of Nigeria. He attended the famous Our Lady of Apostles, in Yaba, Lagos and St Gregory College in Obalende. He studied Marketing and Business at the University of Southern Carolina.
Growing up was not a bed of roses. His father was a public servant who worked with the UAC. Ben whose initial dream was to be a professor of history had the opportunity of working in Domino Stores, a departmental store owned by his father. He however decided to do other things. His venture into show business didn’t enjoy the support of his parents. In his words “One time I was dancing and my father saw me dancing. He said, “If I ever catch you dancing, you’ll never use those legs again.” Though his father hated show business, thinking it was a waste of time, but somehow he managed to cope with a son who was bent on making a living out of the business. Even though he hated the business, he enjoyed the attention he was getting being the father to Ben.
Ben got into show business by accident. He recounts “I was at home one day in Los Angeles, USA, and somebody knocked on my door and I said who do you want? He said, he was looking for somebody and I said you are in the wrong house. We got talking and I said what is your name, he told me. And I said what do you do, he said, ‘I’m a teacher’. He was very friendly and so I asked him in. As we talked, I said, ‘if you are a teacher, who do you teach?’ he said Janet Jackson, and I said who else? He said Todd Bridges, Garry Coleman. And I said you mean you are really a teacher? He said yes. Then he asked what do I do? I said, ‘I’m a student of the University of Southern Carolina.
The man told him he was working on a set at that time and invited him over. That was where he met Redd Fox of the Sandford and Sons’ fame, the Jeffersons and others. He ended up meeting a lot of actors and actresses. One day, his friend proposed “Hey, let’s do a show in Nigeria’ and they did their first show and the rest is history.
Silverbird Productions started in 1980 with a borrowed capital of N20, 000.00; a desk in a small corner of the Domino administrative office, six staff and only two business activities, pageant and programme syndication. Today, with hundreds of staff, the company has turned to a conglomerate – three radio stations, Rhythm 93.7 in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt; Silverbird television; the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria; Silverbird Cinema, Silverbird Entertainment and Silverbird Galleria. Silverbird Cinema, the first and only Cinema multi-plex with five screens, has been a huge success and they are holding talks with some State governments in the country to replicate the Lagos success story.
His entry into the pageantry business came at a time when the Miss Nigeria franchise was beginning to lose its glamour, the interest of Nigerians and its sponsor. His brainchild, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant eventually took over the market leadership from the Miss Nigeria, owned and operated by the Daily Times of Nigeria. MBGN produced the likes of Omasan Buwa, Bianca Onoh and Agbani Darego.
Agbani Darego won the Miss World contest and became the first ever Nigerian and African to win the Miss World pageant. Mr. Bruce successfully brought Julia Morley and the whole Miss World show to Nigeria for the 2002 Miss World event slated for Nigeria that year. Religious riots sparks by a newspaper article torpedoed the plan.
Mr. Bruce who is married to Evelyn, an American with two boys and a girl, has 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 and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He was also on the board of National Arts Theatre Management, The Federal Film Censors Board, The Board of the Nigerian Film Corporation, National Film Distribution Company and Nigerian Anti-Piracy Action Committee.
Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce, motivational speaker role mode to Nigerian youths is a director of several companies in Nigeria as well as in France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.