Bloomberg Billionaires Index

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#472 Denis O'Brien $4.17B

Random fact: Resident of the Mediterranean island of Malta since 2005.

Overview

O'Brien is the chairman and founder of Digicel, the Caribbean's largest mobile phone operator. The Bermuda-based company had 14 million subscribers and earnings of more than $1 billion in the year ended March 31, 2017. Other interests include Irish broadcaster Communicorp Group and publisher Independent News and Media.

As of Oct. 17, 2017:
Last change +$13.7M (+0.3%)
YTD change -$160M (-3.7%)
Industry Media & Telecom
Biggest asset Digicel Group
Citizenship Ireland
Age 59
Wealth Self-made
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Denis O'Brien's net worth of $4.17B can buy ...

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Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Cash
Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

The majority of O'Brien's fortune is derived from his 94 percent stake in closely held mobile phone company, Digicel Group. The Bermuda-based company had $1.1 billion in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in the year ended March 31, 2017, according to a June 2017 article in the Irish Times, which excludes a $50 million restructuring charge. Digicel's value has been indexed to the performance of the Dow Jones Emerging Markets Telecommunications Titans 30 Total Return Index since Aug. 23, 2017. The base valuation was calculated using the company's March 2017 financials and the average enterprise value-to-Ebitda multiple of two publicly traded peer companies: Partner Communications and Telekom Malaysia.

He controls Dublin-based Irish broadcaster Communicorp Group and industrial services business Siteserve, as well as London-based road fuel supplier, Harvest Energy. He also owns shares in publicly traded Independent News & Media, which is based in Dublin and publishes newspapers in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as London-based oil and gas business, Sterling Energy, according to their corporate websites.

O'Brien's cash holdings are valued based on an analysis of dividends, market performance, insider transactions, taxes and charitable contributions.

In a March 2013 telephone interview, O'Brien said Digicel was worth more than calculated by Bloomberg News. He said he also has "substantial" property assets and declined to give further details.

Biography

Birthdate: 4/19/1958
Family: Married, 4 children
Education: 1982, Boston College, MBA University College Dublin, Bachelor's Degree

Born in Ireland in 1958, O'Brien studied history and politics at University College Dublin, before heading to the U.S. and completing an MBA in corporate finance at Boston College in 1982. He returned to Ireland in 1983 to join aircraft leasing company Guinness Peat Aviation and later set up a cable home shopping channel, and Communicorp Group, an Irish radio broadcaster.

In 1995, an O'Brien-led consortium won an Irish mobile phone licence. O'Brien, fellow Irish entrepreneur Dermot Desmond and Telenor, a Fornebu, Norway-based mobile phone provider used the licence to start Esat Digifone in 1997. Its parent company, Esat Telecom, was acquired by British operator, BT Group, in 2000 for $2.4 billion.

O'Brien's stake in the deal was worth more than 300 million euros. In the year following the sale he used some of the proceeds to establish the Digicel Group, a mobile phone service provider to the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific islands. O'Brien raised his stake in the business to 94 percent in 2007 after the issuance of $1.4 billion worth of bonds.

Digicel operates in several developing countries including Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, O'Brien donated 3.5 million euros to rescue efforts.

O'Brien was named in a 2011 report from the Moriarty Tribunal, which was established in 1997 to investigate the financial dealings of Irish politicians. The report concluded that Michael Lowry, then Ireland's communications minister, "secured the winning" of the 1995 mobile license for Esat Digifone, and received improper financial payments from the consortium. O'Brien has criticized the Tribunal as "fundamentally flawed," denies making any payment to Lowry and said no political corruption was ever proven.

An Irish citizen, O'Brien moved to Portugal in 2000 before becoming a resident of Malta in 2005.

Milestones
  • 1958 Denis O'Brien is born in Dublin.
  • 1989 Founds Communicorp and begins radio broadcasts in Ireland.
  • 1995 Sets up the Esat Digifone consortium that wins an Irish cellphone license.
  • 2000 Esat Digifone sold to BT. O'Brien receives 317 million euros.
  • 2001 Creates Caribbean-focused mobile phone group Digicel.
  • 2005 Appointed director of Bank of Ireland and becomes a Malta resident.
  • 2006 Acquires a stake in newspaper publisher Independent News & Media.
  • 2010 O'Brien sells Digicel Pacific to Digicel for $825 million.