Monday 26 June 2017

The richest individual born in Ireland is communications and media entrepreneur Denis O'Brien, whose considerable assets span the telecoms, media and hotels sectors, among others. Among the key projects on his agenda for 2017 is a plan to personally invest up to $450m on a network of undersea telecoms cables linking dozens of countries in the Caribbean. The project could connect up to 40 countries.

However, his telecoms company Digicel has been hit by currency fluctuations over the past 12 months. The company has laid out an ambitious transformation plan to ready it for 2030. There will be up to 2,000 job cuts, but the company will reduce debt and grow earnings as customers buy more sophisticated services. The company has been a massive cash cow for the entrepreneur, who has taken out close to $1.5bn in dividends in the last decade.

O'Brien, who was born in Cork and raised in Dublin, has sold some assets in recent years, making impressive returns. In 2015, he sold off petrol station chain Topaz, receiving 258m in cash from a Canadian buyer.

O'Brien decided against selling off his Quinta do Lago resort in Portugal, which he bought for about 31m in 1998. Now valued at well in excess of 220m, he has extensive plans to develop and expand the luxury development.

He has also bought a hotel near his PGA Catalunya golf resort outside Barcelona in Spain and is a backer of a hip new hotel in Dublin 8. He also owns Actavo — formerly Siteserv — which recorded a 25pc increase in profits to 18m in 2015.

O'Brien's fortune was originally generated by building up telecoms firm Esat in the late 1990s before selling it to BT, netting about 317m in cash. Apart from his radio assets, which include Today FM and Newstalk, he is a shareholder in Independent News & Media, publisher of this newspaper.

He owns a 65m Gulfstream G650ER, which he received delivery of in late 2015 and has a new one on order. He has also emerged as the owner of a luxury six-bedroom ski chalet in the French Alps called Chalet Chocolat Chaud (Chalet Hot Chocolate), which can be rented for 33,000 a week.

O'Brien bought Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara, one of the country's top hotels, in 2015. He owns many fine properties including a home in affluent Ballsbridge. The businessman has significant philanthropic interests and helps many good causes, funding charitable organisations in Ireland and abroad.

A keen sportsman, he has paid the wages of the Ireland football team manager and is also a major, but low profile, supporter of Irish rugby. He is well known for his support of the Special Olympics.

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