Denis O'Brien

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For other people of the same name, see Dennis O'Brien (disambiguation).
Denis O'Brien
Born (1958-04-19) 19 April 1958 (age 57)
County Cork,[1] Ireland
Residence Malta
Education Politics, history and logic
Corporate finance
Alma mater University College Dublin
Boston College
Occupation Chairman of DOB Group and DOB Investments
Agent James Morrissey
Net worth $6.8 billion[2]

Denis O'Brien (born 19 April 1958) was listed among the World's Top 200 Billionaires in 2015 (although his position and net worth fluctuates real-time) and is also Ireland's richest native-born citizen.[1][2][3]

O'Brien owns Communicorp, a media holding company which operates across Europe, but particularly in Ireland where it dominates national radio (apart from RTÉ) via stations like Newstalk and Today FM. The New York Times has described him as "the biggest player in Ireland's media landscape" and notes that "his Independent News & Media group controls the Irish Independent as well as the Irish Daily Star, the Sunday Independent, the Sunday World, Dublin's Evening Herald and regional newspapers,"[4] through his minority shareholding in the group. According to Fintan O'Toole, O'Brien "has accumulated excessive private power" and "been allowed to take effective control of the largest Irish newspaper group and of two of [Ireland's] three national talk radio stations."[5] O'Brien also owns telecoms provider Digicel, which operates in 31 markets across the Caribbean, Central America and Oceania.

O'Brien set up and chaired the Esat Digifone consortium which acquired a mobile phone licence in the 1990s.[6] The Moriarty Tribunal found almost beyond doubt that O'Brien's was awarded this contract due to payments he made to Michael Lowry, the then communications minister, who unduly influenced the bidding process. This contract formed the basis of O'Brien's fortune. O'Brien established Communicorp in 1989, with the company currently owning 42 radio stations in eight European countries. In 1999, he founded the international commercial aircraft company Aergo Capital – registered in Dublin, with offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Santiago and Singapore. In 2001, he founded telecoms provider Digicel in Jamaica. He also owns Topaz Energy and has a "significant interest" in Sterling Energy.[7]

After the sale of Esat, O'Brien moved to Portugal where he owns the Quinta do Lago golf complex. He later took up residency in Sliema, Malta.[8] His spokesperson is James Morrissey.[9][10]


O'Brien studied politics, history and logic at University College Dublin, graduating in 1977. After winning a scholarship from Boston College while attending UCD,[1] he completed an MBA in corporate finance there in 1982. UCD gave him an honorary doctorate in 2006.[11]

Esat Digifone[edit]

In 1995, O'Brien set up and chaired the Esat Digifone consortium, which submitted a bid for the second Irish GSM mobile phone licence. Esat Digifone's bid defeated five other applicants, some of whom included major international operators, in controversial circumstances that became the subject of investigation by the Moriarty Tribunal.[12] The Esat Digifone consortium was 40% owned by O'Brien's interests, 40% owned by Telenor, the Norwegian state telecoms operator, with the balance being owned by International Investment and Underwriting (IIU), an investment vehicle owned by Dermot Desmond.

On 7 November 1997, Esat Telecom Group plc held an initial public offering and was listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, and NASDAQ Stock Markets. There were differences between O'Brien and Telenor, however, ESAT Digifone boomed. Telenor made a bid for control of the company, but O'Brien chose to sell to BT in 2000.[8] Esat became a wholly owned subsidiary of BT and was delisted from the stock market. O'Brien personally netted €317 million from the sale.[13]


After exiting the Irish mobile phone market, O'Brien started to compete for mobile phone licenses in the Caribbean through his company Digicel.[14] Digicel now has in excess of eleven million mobile phone subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific.[14] He set up a new subsidiary Digicel Group Ltd, and via a bonds issue, acquired the entire holding of Digicel Limited.[citation needed] O'Brien is involved in the Pacific with operations in Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea[15]

As the owner of Haiti's largest telecom company, Digicel, O'Brien pledged an immediate €3.5 million of his money to assist desperate Haitians within hours of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[16] Two of Digicel's 900 staff members in Haiti died in the earthquake.[17] Digicel is Haiti's largest single investor.[18] Digicel's headquarters was one of the few buildings in the region to survive unharmed.[19] He was appointed goodwill ambassador for Port-au-Prince by the city's mayor and deputy mayor in recognition of his efforts to rebuild Haiti and attract foreign direct investment in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on 12 January, and on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative. He is Chairman of the Haiti Action Network, which coordinates the activities of approximately 80 support organisations in Haiti.[18] Most recently, O'Brien reconstructed the Iron Market in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, the first public building in the city to be rebuilt since the earthquake.[20]

Digicel was involved in an extensive court battle with the Jamaican Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) throughout the 2000s. The issue originally arose after Phillip Paulwell, the then Jamaican minister of industry, commerce and technology, instructed the OUR to refrain from interfering with the pricing policies of Digicel, after the regulator had itself instructed Digicel to amend its interconnectivity fees.[21] Although Paulwell was ruled to have had no power to issue the instruction to the OUR, Digicel unsuccessfully appealed the ruling first at the Jamaican Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling, though it was subsequently upheld by Court of Appeal after a counter-appeal by OUR, and then at Jamaica's Privy Council.[21]

The issue came under some scrutiny in 2011 when it emerged via Wikileaks that US officials based in Jamaica's Kingston capital had described Paulwell as a "conflicted and meddling" minister.[22] The diplomatic cable, despatched in 2007, detailed Paulwell's alleged mismanagement of the Universal Access Fund, which was set up by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1997 to meet Congressional universal service goals as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[22] It also documented how he had paid attorney Minette Palmer, his former personal advisor, almost US$450,000 over a 19-month period, despite that no internet facilities had been provided in schools during that time as the scheme intended. To further compound matter was the revelation that Paulwell had recently awarded a cellular licence to a company controlled by Palmer and her husband.[23]

In January 2014, the Financial Times‍ '​s Telecoms Correspondent wrote of O'Brien's intention to expand Digicel into next-generation mobile and fixed line services, with O'Brien quoted as being excited by the prospect of a "world order [that] is changing."[24]

Moriarty Tribunal[edit]

Main article: Moriarty Tribunal

The Moriarty Tribunal's second and final report found that Michael Lowry, Ireland's then energy and communications minister, assisted O'Brien in his bid to secure a mobile phone contract for Esat Digifone, a key foundation of O'Brien's personal wealth. The tribunal found that this happened after Lowry received a $50,000 payment from O'Brien via a circuitous route involving a complex arrangement of third parties and offshore accounts. It said that it was "beyond doubt" that Lowry gave "substantive information to Denis O'Brien, of significant value and assistance to him in securing the [mobile] licence" during at least two meetings between the two.[25][26] The Tribunal was not a court of law; its findings were "legally sterile".

On 15 October 2011, Today FM confirmed Sam Smyth's Sunday radio show was being dropped. He had been presenting it for 14 years. Smyth had previously offended his bosses by commenting in a newspaper and on television about Today FM's owner O'Brien's involvement in the Moriarty Tribunal. Smyth said on air the next morning that he had been told not to talk about the end of his show and stopped one of his guests from talking about it too "before someone comes downstairs and pulls a wire we better move onto something else."[27] The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said it was concerned at the development, but Today FM stated that "the decision was made to address a decline in listenership and was part of an initiative to improve programming quality." The Today FM board supported the decision, which was one of several programming changes made by Willy O'Reilly[28] The Irish Independent, of which O'Brien is a leading shareholder, reported that Anton Savage was being lined up to replace Smyth.[29]

Topaz Energy[edit]

O'Brien outright owns Topaz Energy, having bought €300 million of its loans from Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC). In May 2014, O'Brien appointed former Taoiseach Brian Cowen to the board of Topaz to join himself, his nephew (who is also CEO of Smiles Dental), Sean Corkey (CEO of O'Brien's SiteServ), Lucy Gaffney (chairperson of O'Brien's Communicorp) and Colm Doherty (former managing director of Allied Irish Banks).[30] In December 2014, Topaz's parent company Kendrick Investments announced it would buy all of Esso's Irish operations.[31] Profits at Topaz increased between April 2013 and March 2014.[32]

In addition, O'Brien is listed as having a "significant interest" in AIM-listed Sterling Energy.[7] The company has production in the United States and a wide portfolio of exploration interests, mostly in West Africa.

Relationship with the media[edit]


Main article: Communicorp

O'Brien formed Communicorp in 1989. It launched its radio operations in Ireland that same year and entered the Czech Republic in 1992. It later added stations in Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Ukraine.[33] Based in Dublin, the company now owns 42 radio stations in eight European countries, including Ireland's Newstalk, Today FM, Dublin's 98, Spin 1038, TXFM and Spin South West. O'Brien owns a majority of Ireland's radio stations (all stations apart from those run by state broadcaster RTÉ), save some regional and local stations.[34]

O'Brien's Communicorp was the highest bidder for Emap's Irish operations when that company decided to sell its radio stations, buying FM104, Highland Radio and Today FM on 14 July 2007.[33][35][36] In October 2007, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) approved Communicorp's proposed takeover of Today FM and Highland Radio, but not FM104.[37][38] The deal was completed by January 2008.[39] Due to a Competition Authority decision, Communicorp was required to sell-on FM104, which it did (to UTV Media) immediately upon its acquisition. O'Brien offloaded Highland Radio in mid-2008.[40][41]

Independent News & Media[edit]

In January 2006, O'Brien took a stake in Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media (INM). At the beginning of June 2007, O'Reilly tabled a resolution to strengthen rules on the disclosure of beneficial interests. This was regarded as a defensive measure that would empower IN&M to monitor any additional accumulation of shares in the company. The resolution passed and empowers IN&M to withhold dividends from investors who do not comply with a request for information on the ownership of a holding of shares. O'Brien, speaking on RTÉ Radio, described the resolution as a "retrograde" measure, saying that the resolution was designed to protect the interests of O'Reilly's family against a hostile bidder.[42] In January 2008, at the same time as completing the purchase Today FM (Ireland's last national radio station independent of O'Brien and state broadcaster RTÉ), O'Brien increased his INM shareholding to become that company's second-biggest shareholder behind Tony O'Reilly.[39]

In 2012, O'Brien seized control of INM from O'Reilly, bringing to an end four decades of that family's ownership. Brett Chenoweth, the chief executive of APN News and Media (INM's Australian arm), was forced to resign in 2013. Its Chairman Peter Hunt and three independent directors – Melinda Conrad, John Harvey and John Maasland – also resigned in a dispute with INM. Shortly before this, INM announced it would sell South African arm of its business for £146 million to a consortium fronted by Iqbal Survé, a former doctor of Nelson Mandela. This followed the 2010 sale of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev for £1.[43]

As of May 2012, O'Brien holds a 29.9% stake in INM, making him the largest shareholder.[44] This compares to the O'Reilly's family stake of around 13%.[45]

On the evening of Friday 7 December 2012, O'Brien's friend and solicitor Paul Meagher contacted the Sunday Independent with orders from O'Brien to 'kill' a story concerning environment minister Phil Hogan.[46]

On the evening of Saturday 19 July 2014, group editor of INM Stephen Rae ordered the presses to be stopped to amend a column written by Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris which featured references to O'Brien. Copies of the original article did however appear, allowing comparisons between the two. Harris originally wrote: "Denis O'Brien is the majority shareholder in INM. In theory, with 29% of the shares, he does not control it. In practice, he does." Rae had the last sentence deleted. Harris also wrote: "The question is whether he understands newspapers. In order to confront the truths in our society, we must have a free press. With the restrictive charter for journalists proposed last year, and some garrotive (sic) new structures, Denis O'Brien does not make this easy." This was changed to: "The question is whether he understands newspapers. In order to confront the truths in our society, we must have a free press. If the restrictive charter for journalists proposed last year, along with some other structural changes, are anything to go by, it might be instructive for him to listen to journalists, troublesome and all as they are."[47] Harris departed from the newspaper some months later, with The Irish Times noting her departing speech to staff as follows: "She is understood to have spoken only about journalists and journalism and not about newspapers and their owners, a subject matter she has previously addressed in several columns".[48]

Media lawsuits[edit]

In an unusual development, O'Brien has in the past threatened to personally sue the celebrated journalist and broadcaster Vincent Browne; as the Sunday Independent wrote at the time: "Suing the individual journalist is a tactic usually designed to instil a fear of financial ruin into the writer of the allegedly offending article, especially when the potential litigant is somebody of Mr O'Brien's means."[49]

In 2012, Browne wrote a piece for The Irish Times on why O'Brien "is not a fit person to control INM" (Independent News & Media). In this piece, Browne questioned O'Brien's previous threats to personally sue Sam Smyth and asked: "[H]ow plausible is it that the removal of Sam Smyth from a Sunday morning radio programme on Today FM, which Denis O'Brien controls, and his ostracisation now within the Irish Independent to which he is contracted (not one article by him has been published for some months), isn't part of the same campaign which Denis O'Brien and [one of his then representatives on the board of INM] Leslie Buckley, conducted against Sam Smyth in 2010?"[50]

On 14 February 2013, O'Brien sued the Irish Daily Mail for defamation over his numerous appearances in RTÉ news reports on the relief effort after the Haiti earthquake in an attempt to use the publicity to deflect attention from the Moriarty Tribunal. The court awarded O'Brien €150,000. The case was a landmark one as it was the first time a journalist had attempted to use the honest opinion defence. The newspaper's solicitor said it was a sad day for freedom of expression in Ireland.[51][52]

On 6 August 2015, Waterford Whispers News (a satirical website similar to America's The Onion) editor-in-chief Colm Williamson received a cease and desist order from a solicitor acting on O'Brien's behalf, for a satirical article regarding O'Brien published on the website.[53] Soon after lawyers for O'Brien also demanded that a report of the Waterford Whispers News story also be removed from under the treaty of legal action, which has yet to be complied with.[54]

In response to such actions - in particular those relating to the threat of legal proceedings against satirical websites - the comments sections of various Irish related social media outlet featured many negative comments chastising Mr O'Brien for his constant issuing of threats of legal proceedings. Some even went as far as setting up pages dedicated to such criticisms and featured harsh satirical postings such as Save Denis from Satire. The Save Denis From Satire Facebook page contains such satirical posts as:

  • "Thank God that Malta gave Denis O'Brien asylum - can you imagine what he'd have to face if he was in Ireland everyday??? It wouldn't just be on the internet and in the paper, sure the poor man wouldn't be able to have a pint in a local at all!!!"[55]
  • A photo image of the Waterford Whispers News news story[56]
  • Satirical images of Mr. O'Brien [57]

IBRC and Parliamentary Privilege[edit]

IBRC Controversy and RTÉ injunction[edit]

In 2015, arguing that revelation of his relationship with his bank was an invasion of his privacy, O'Brien successfully applied for an injunction against RTÉ preventing the state broadcaster from airing a report on how O'Brien was allegedly receiving, on foot of a claimed but disputed[58] verbal agreement with a former CEO of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC)—the former Anglo Irish Bank, and another senior executive, a rate of approximately 1.25% when IBRC "could, and arguably should" have been charging 7.5%.[59] This alleged rate applied to "outstanding sums of upwards of €500 million",[59] or "over €300 million" according to the RTÉ producer's court affidavit.[58][60] O'Brien then allegedly wrote to IBRC's special liquidator Kieran Wallace to demand that these same favourable terms that were granted him by way of verbal agreement be continued.[59][61] The Irish government later appointed Kieran Wallace to conduct a review into various IBRC transactions, including the sale of Siteserv by IBRC to Denis O'Brien.[61] Acting as IBRC special liquidator, and in order to protect the confidentiality of IBRC's relations with its customers and of any legal advice given to it,[62] Wallace then joined with IBRC and Denis O'Brien to seek an injunction in Ireland's High Court to hide this information from the public.[59] High court judge Mr Justice Donald Binchy granted O'Brien the injunction and told the court that certain elements of the judgement would have to be redacted. The Irish media therefore could not report on details of the injunction.[63]

Independent TD Catherine Murphy attempted to raise this in the Dáil on 27 May 2015. Seán Barrett silenced her and called her contributions "out of order".[64] Catherine Murphy then attempted to raise the matter again the following day, this time with more success.[65] O’Brien "claimed the information was false and that it was an abuse of Dáil privilege."[61] (The former chief executive of IBRC, Mike Aynsley, also took issue with other comments by Deputy Murphy).[61] Lawyers acting for O'Brien immediately forced much of the country's media to censor its own coverage, with some media outlets confirming they had received warnings from O'Brien's lawyers.[66] RTÉ reporter Philip Boucher-Hayes tweeted that Drivetime would play Murphy’s speech; in the event, Murphy's speech was not broadcast and his tweet was later deleted.[59] Tonight with Vincent Browne (with Browne absent and instead moderated by Ger Colleran, editor of INM's Irish Daily Star) featured Colleran reading a statement from TV3 management asserting that no discussion about Murphy's comments would be allowed following letters from O'Brien's lawyers.[59] At least one foreign commentator covering these events for the international media suggested that in Ireland "the bedrock of any society claiming to be democratic" had been "wiped away at a stroke".[67] Some enterprising citizens received a positive response by printing Catherine Murphy's speech from foreign media coverage and handing copies to passers-by on the streets of the nation's towns and cities in an attempt to inform those relying on state media.[68]

The Irish Times stated that "it is an unprecedented development that the mainstream media have been prevented from publishing privileged remarks in the Dáil due to the threat of legal action".[69] However it also added that Deputy Murphy's Dáil speech was still available on the Oireachtas website,[69] and that the website had ignored a request by solicitors to remove a copy of her speech.[69] rejected the request by referring to Article 15.12 of the Irish Constitution[70] - this states "All official reports and publications of the Oireachtas or of either House thereof and utterances made in either House wherever published shall be privileged."[71] Former Attorney General Michael McDowell indicated that parliamentary privilege does not grant "absolute impunity", but that he expected it would apply in this case.[72] In the High Court the following Tuesday (June 2, 2015), Mr Justice Donald Binchy stated that it was "never intended nor could it have been intended that any order of this court would impact upon entitlements of deputies to speak as they see fit or the entitlement of the media to report on those utterances", but added that it was "entirely understandable" that RTE had sought court clarification on this.[73]

When giving written reasons for the injunction (with "fairly minimal" redactions) a few days later, Judge Binchy said "there was no allegation whatsoever of any misconduct or wrongdoing on the part of Mr O'Brien".[74] Earlier O'Brien had defended himself in an Irish Times article, stating that he had been shocked that somebody took confidentiall files from a bank, tampered with them, and then leaked them, that he had done much to try to help the Irish economy and the stability of its banking system in recent years, that the 'throwing to the wolves' of decent Irish borrowers by institutions like NAMA had ruined many lives and led to suicides, and that he was being vilified to an unprecedented degree by enemies, competitors, publicity-seeking politicians, and social media cowards, for trying to defend his privacy.[75]

On 17 June 2015, RTÉ published what it stated was "a curtailed version of the story RTÉ sought to publish last month. Two paragraphs of the original planned story cannot be published as they are still covered by the injunction granted to IBRC against RTÉ in May." The curtailed version was accompanied by an alleged "timeline of events".[58] The omissions were not due to O'Brien's lawyers, but to objections by IBRC to publication of reported legal advice given to IBRC that was not already in the public domain.[76]

Commission of Investigation into IBRC[edit]

Main article: O'Keeffe Commission

On 10 June 2015, a Commission of Investigation (O'Keeffe Commission) was established to inquire into the wider issue of certain transactions of IBRC under the Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Order 2015 passed by Dail Eireann[77] and Seanad Eireann.[78] This was partly as a result of controversy over the sale by IBRC of Siteserv to a company controled by Denis O'Brien, and of complaints by Deputy Catherine Murphy that IBRC special liquidator Kieran Wallace, who had originally been asked to conduct an inquiry into such matters, could no longer credibly do so after he had joined with O'Brien in his above lawsuit against RTÉ.[59][61][79]

Lawsuit against the State[edit]

On 16 June 2015 Counsel for Mr O'Brien informed the High Court that he was suing the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, Ireland and the Attorney General over remarks made by Independent TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about his banking affairs (following his above lawsuit against RTÉ) in an alleged breach of parliamentary privilege, violating his constitutional rights and his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.[80][81][82] The Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges had previously rejected O'Brien's claims that Deputy Murphy's allegations were a breach of parliamentary privilege.[83]

Other interests[edit]

O'Brien is a member of the Bilderberg group[84][85] and Trilateral Commission.[86] He regularly attends the World Economic Forum's annual winter meeting in Davos, meeting Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros among others.[1][87]

In 1999, O'Brien founded aircraft leasing company Aergo Capital – registered in Dublin, with offices in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Santiago and Singapore. It owns and operates a fleet of 103 commercial aircraft. The company is valued at US$250 million and has debts in the region of US$166 million.[citation needed] O'Brien controls about 83 per cent of Aergo and, along with his father, sits on the company's six-member board. Aergo's clients include Alitalia, Jet Airways, South African Airways, KLM and DHL. In July 2008, Aergo acquired the Safair aircraft-leasing division of Imperial Holdings for €110 million, taking over the division's 33 planes and leasing a further nine aircraft from the parent company.[citation needed] In November 2010, Aergo sold Safair, netting $35 million. Accounts filed in late-2011 showed pre-tax profits increased to $29.4 million over the previous 12 months from $2.68 million in 2009, with the number of employees decreasing from 166 to 15 over the same period.[88]

O'Brien supported the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, holding the title "Chairman of Council of Patrons."[89] He is also a Director on the U.S. Board of Concern Worldwide.[90]

In September 2005, O'Brien was named Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ireland. Simultaneously, he moved his residence from Portugal to Malta, for tax reasons. He resigned as Deputy Governor, and as a member of the Bank's board or court, on 12 September 2006.[91] The Bank of Ireland issued a statement describing his resignation as due to "his growing international business interests together with the demands of an extensive travel schedule, meant that he could no longer devote the time required to the ever increasing workload of the court."[92] O'Brien also resigned from the Norkom Group and the UCD Smurfit School of Business. His spokesman said these resignations were unconnected with the work of the Moriarty Tribunal.

On 13 February 2008, Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney confirmed that O'Brien was funding the wages of Ireland national soccer team manager Giovanni Trapattoni.[93] O'Brien's soccer interests also extend to being a minority shareholder in Scottish club, Celtic.[verification needed]

In 2011, O'Brien donated €2,500 to the campaign of Mary Davis for the Irish presidential election.[94]

O'Brien and the Clintons[edit]

O'Brien and the Clintons were prominent investors of time and money in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.[95] U.S. government agency USAID, overseen by the State Department and headed at the time by Hillary Clinton, donated millions of U.S. tax dollars to O'Brien's Digicel company. USAID's "Food for Peace" scheme transferred money over Digicel's mobile network, with citizens of the stricken country being given mobile phones and free Digicel accounts, which led Digicel to "significantly expand" its customer numbers. Bill Clinton also oversaw the building and then opened a luxury Marriott Hotel in Haiti; this hotel was owned by Digicel, which made a $45 million contribution (compared to a $26.5 million contribution from the World Bank-affiliated International Finance Corporation).[96]

In 2011, Bill Clinton flew to Ireland on O'Brien's private jet to attend the Global Irish Economic Forum.[34][95]

In 2012, Clinton bestowed upon O'Brien the title "Clinton Global Citizen" as part of an awards scheme connected with the Clinton Global Initiative think tank.[95]

According to The Irish Times, Clinton's 2013 speaking engagement at Dublin's Conrad Hotel was "facilitated largely by his friend" Denis O'Brien. When opening his speech, Clinton personally thanked O'Brien "for the invitation."[95] According to U.S. accounts, Clinton's average speaking fee for the previous year a minimum of close to $200,000 (though he had received multiples of that fee at some corporate functions).[95]

O'Brien has sued his first cousin in California.[97] That cousin, Donald MacAllister, is the son of O'Brien's paternal Aunt Maureen, who was killed in a collision with a car driven by a 36-year-old Michael Smurfit in Dublin's Foxrock suburb in 1972.[98] The case centred on private e-mails MacAllister sent to American, Irish, Jamaican and Burmese politicians and media (among them Micheál Martin, Vincent Browne and Aung San Suu Kyi). Statements such as O'Brien being the largest contributor to the Clinton Foundation and O'Brien telling MacAllister that Smurfit had financed O'Brien's first radio station were not denied by O'Brien.[97]

O'Brien's "arrangement" of speeches for Clinton is covered in Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash.[99] Clinton has also praised O'Brien in Time Magazine,[95] while U.S. media have referred to O'Brien as a "Clinton crony."[100]

Wealth and residences in Portugal and Malta[edit]

Forbes estimates O'Brien's wealth as aprroximately $6.8 billion.[2] Forbes also lists O'Brien as being richer than such billionaires as Richard Branson, Bernie Ecclestone, Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer and Russian oligarchs like Alexander Abramov.[2]

O'Brien took up residency in Portugal some time before Esat Telecom's sale to BT in 2000. He netted more than €300 million from that sale but paid no capital gains tax due to a then-existing provision in the Irish-Portuguese tax treaty. While considering the flotation of Digicel on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006, it emerged in public that O'Brien had taken up residence in Malta. O'Brien's move to Malta was revealed in a March 2006 filing to the Companies Registration Office (CRO), which listed O'Brien's residential address in Malta. Malta charges no tax on worldwide assets or income brought in by permanent residents. Residence, for tax purposes, means renting or buying a property with a minimum value and visiting Malta at least once within one year of becoming a resident.[101]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "From bell boy to billionaire, O'Brien had real business flair". 
  2. ^ a b c d "The World's Billionaires". Forbes. 
  3. ^ "Denis O'Brien: High court injunction prevents Irish media reporting on businessman's finances". BBC News (London: BBC). 29 May 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Irish Media, Fearing Lawsuits, Steers Clear of a Billionaire". The New York Times. 29 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Democracy in danger when one man exercises excessive private power". The Guardian (London: Guardian Media Group). 2 June 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Gaffney, Lucy (27 March 2011). "We won because our was simply the best bid". The Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Share Capital". Sterling Energy. Archived from the original on 1 June 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Northedge, Richard (16 September 2007). "Denis O'Brien: The man who wants to make a splash at Independent News & Media – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "'It's Important People Stand Up For Democracy'". 29 May 2015. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Denis O'Brien's tireless spokesman James Morrissey went on RTÉ Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke [hosted by Keelin Shanley] this morning to put forward his client's case for wishing to prevent media outlets reporting Catherine Murphy's speech to the dáil yesterday. 
  10. ^ "Morrissey And Mar'". 31 May 2015. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Denis O’Brien's spokesman James Morrissey and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin engaged in a pre-recorded debate with Richard Crowley for RTÉ's This Week on the ongoing constitutional brouhaha. 
  11. ^ "Alma Mater confers Denis O'Brien with honorary Doctor of Laws". 15 November 2006. 
  12. ^ Court action on the awarding of the license by the Persona grouping has been signaled.
  13. ^ Russell, Jonathan (22 March 2011). "Denis O'Brien 'paid minister to help secure Irish phone licence'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c Keena, Colm (10 July 2010). "Plucky David or pirate of the Caribbean?". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  15. ^ "Our locations". Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. 
  16. ^ McDonagh, Patricia; O'Brien, Jason (14 January 2010). "O'Brien pledges €3.5m as charities plead for money". Irish Independent (Denis O'Brien). Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  17. ^ Smyth (14 January 2010). "All Irish citizens in area alive and well, says Foreign Affairs". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "Haiti names Denis O'Brien goodwill ambassador". Silicon Republic. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Kane, Conor (14 January 2010). "Family's relief at 'miraculous' escape of Irish worker". Irish Independent (Denis O'Brien). Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  20. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (9 January 2011). "How an Irish telecoms tycoon became Haiti's only hope of salvation". The Observer. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  21. ^ a b "Blow to Digicel". Jamaica Observer. 22 January 2010. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "WIKILEAKS – Paulwell's Nine Lives". Kingston, Jamaica: Gleaner Company. 5 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "Jamaica: Universal Access Fund – A Meddling Minister And Issues Of Conflict". Jamaica: CableGateSearch. 23 July 2007. 
  24. ^ Thomas, Daniel (20 January 2014). "Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien plans ‘massive’ telecoms push". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Honourable Justice Michael Moriarty". Moriarty Tribunal. 
  26. ^ "Moriarty says Lowry helped O'Brien win mobile licence". The Irish Times. 22 March 2011. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  27. ^ "Today FM's Smyth changes topic during discussion about his own sacking". 16 October 2011. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. 
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  60. ^ Mr Justice Donald Binchy (June 3, 2015). Denis O'Brien-v-RTÉ redacted judgment (PDF). The High Court. p. 11. Retrieved June 18, 2015. paragraph 20 (e) ...over €300 million 
  61. ^ a b c d e Barry O'Keeffe; Cliff Taylor (May 28, 2015). "Catherine Murphy makes Denis O’Brien claims in Dáil". Irish Times. Retrieved June 3, 2015. O’Brien says information was false and claims were an abuse of Dáil privilege ... Ms Murphy has previously claimed Mr O’Brien had written to IBRC’s special liquidator Kieran Wallace seeking the same terms IBRC had allowed him, which was to “pay off his own loans in his own time at low interest rates”. The sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien has become embroiled in controversy and is the subject of a formal review by the IBRC’s liquidator. The terms under which the company, which carries out a wide variety of services, including water meter installation, was sold are part of that review. Separately, Mike Aynsley, the former chief executive of IBRC, released a lengthy statement, taking issue with other comments by Ms Murphy, who was moving a Private Members’ Bill through the Dáil. The Bill’s aim is to permit the Comptroller & Auditor General to investigate the Siteserv sale and other IBRC transactions. 
  62. ^ Mr Justice Donald Binchy (June 3, 2015). Denis O'Brien-v-RTÉ redacted judgment (PDF). The High Court. pp. 18–19. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 38. Mr Wallace is one of the joint special liquidators of IBRC ... He also asserts legal professional privilege over any documentation constituting legal advice as is in the possession of the defendant ... This is a grounding affidavit used to support an application by IBRC for injunctive relief ...41. Mr. Wallace expresses great concern that if the bank's entitlement to confidentiality in its dealings with its customers is undermined, this has the potential to damage IBRC in reputation and in financial terms. 
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  69. ^ a b c Fiach Kelly; Fiona Gartland (May 30, 2015). "Oireachtas sources believe Catherine Murphy did not break Dáil rules". Irish Times. Retrieved June 3, 2015. Independent TD did not abuse privilege when commenting about Denis O’Brien ... It is an unprecedented development that the mainstream media have been prevented from publishing privileged remarks in the Dáil due to the threat of legal action. ...Ms Murphy’s comments in the Dáil were published on the Oireachtas website, and it is understood neither Mr O’Brien nor his representatives have contacted Oireachtas authorities. ...It is understood the application was contemplated in relation to the publication by the website of the full statement made by Ms Murphy in the Dáil about Mr O’Brien’s finances. It was contacted by solicitors on Thursday and asked to remove the post, claiming it was in breach of the High Court order in O’Brien v RTÉ.The site was given a deadline of 7pm, but did not remove the post. 
  70. ^ "‘It’s Important People Stand Up For Democracy’". May 29, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015. Scary update: Solicitors acting for Denis O’Brien have asked us to remove this post asserting that it is a breach of a High Court Order [O’Brien Vs RTÉ]. They gave a 7pm [Thursday] deadline or they would begin injunction proceedings. We have replied that article 15.12 of the constitution allows all Dáil statements “wherever published” to be privileged and we currently await their response.
    In response, Denis O’Brien’s legal representative said the High Court ruling “covers what could be reported about what was said in the Dáil by Catherine Murphy” and again put us ‘on notice’. Unfortunately, the judge in the case never revealed the terms of the injunction. In a statement Catherine Murphy said: “I am a public representative. Information came to me, from a number of reliable sources, that is, without doubt, in the public interest. I have a duty to put that information into the public domain and I fully intend to fulfill my democratic mandate.”
  71. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND". Office of the Attorney General. December 2013. Retrieved June 3, 2015. Articles 15-27: THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT
    ARTICLE 15
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  72. ^ "Oireachtas privilege 'should trump' privacy of Denis O'Brien's financial affairs - Former Attorney General". Irish Independent. June 1, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2015. Former Attorney General Michael McDowell has said that comments made by members of the Oireachtas, under privilege, "should trump the private interests of Denis O'Brien in relation to business borrowings from a bank" "The words of parliamentarians are privileged wherever they're published but it doesn't absolutely mean that a parliamentarian can say anything they like and that anyone under any circumstance can repeat what they said with absolute impunity," he told Morning Ireland earlier. "But I think that we're dealing here with a very different situation." 
  73. ^ "Judgment in O'Brien's case against RTÉ expected tomorrow". RTE. June 2, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2015. Mr Justice Binchy then intervened to say that he could "help" and said it was "never intended nor could it have been intended that any order of this court would impact upon entitlements of deputies to speak as they see fit or the entitlement of the media to report on those utterances".However, he said, it was entirely understandable that RTÉ came to court to seek clarification. 
  74. ^ "Court issues written judgment on O'Brien injunction". RTE. June 5, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015. Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he had made some redactions to the judgment but he said they were "fairly minimal". ... He said Mr Murphy said it amounted to an assertion by Mr O'Brien that while the agreement was proper from Mr O'Brien's point of view, senior IBRC management had made an agreement with him in respect of over €300m of debt which was from IBRC's point of view, very likely highly irregular. Mr Murphy said such assertions were made against a backdrop of recorded concern by the Department of Finance in relation to management by senior IBRC management of relationships with major IBRC borrowers. The judge said there was no allegation whatsoever of any misconduct or wrongdoing on the part of Mr O'Brien. 
  75. ^ Denis O'Brien (June 2, 2015). "Denis O’Brien: ‘I have never experienced this level of hatred’". Irish Times. Retrieved June 3, 2015. What shocked me most of all was that someone would take files from a major Irish bank, tamper with them and leak them to RTÉ. ... Many decent people who had loans transferred to Nama, or had loans with Anglo Irish Bank/IBRC were thrown to the wolves. ...I have known people who took their own lives, people who lost everything including their homes and their marriages. Also many people who have had nervous breakdowns. The toll all this has taken on the “community” that makes up our country is quite shocking. I think it is regrettable that there is such a feeding frenzy to spread rumours and selectively leak information to point- score, challenge a competitor or simply do somebody down. It is done behind the cloak of secrecy and anonymity and the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Social media being used for this purpose is crowded with cowards. At a particular point in time when foreign multinationals were at their most nervous about their deposits in Irish banks I decided to be contrarian. I took a decision that Digicel would repatriate its cash deposits from US banks amounting to more than $600 million and place them with two Irish banks as a vote of confidence. Both banks asked my permission to tell a small number of foreign clients of this decision to help stop further outflows and this was granted. At that time, and subsequently, I was talking up Ireland internationally as a recovery story. I wanted to make a significant financial gesture of support at home. This was to show solidarity with Ireland but also to support the efforts of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in stabilising the Irish banks and slow future outflow of deposits. ...

    I have been dragged into a media frenzy because of RTÉ’s attempts to publish my private bank details and Deputy Murphy’s desire to distort them. I have never experienced the level of abuse, venom and hatred resulting from taking a stand to protect privacy in relation to my financial affairs.
  76. ^ "Court rules most of O'Brien report can be broadcast". RTE. June 17, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015. Lawyers for Mr O'Brien said they were no longer opposing the publication of the script of the proposed report by RTÉ's Business Editor David Murphy. However, IBRC continued its objections to those parts of the script it said referred to legal advice. RTÉ agreed that one paragraph of the script should not be published, but argued that the issue of legal advice was already in the public domain due to remarks made by Mr Doherty in the Dáil. Judge Binchy ruled there was a difference between what Mr Doherty said in the Dáil and what was in the script and ruled the paragraph objected to by IBRC should not be published. 
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