Sunday 18 August 2019

Tata Group teams up with Griffin's IrishTV in new deal

John Griffin with Pierce O’Reilly of Irish TV
John Griffin with Pierce O’Reilly of Irish TV

Jason Corcoran

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate headed by the world's richest Irishman, is expected to sign a deal within weeks to provide infrastructure to help IrishTV launch services to the diaspora in America.

"A deal is imminent and could happen within three weeks," said chairman of IrishTV John Griffin. "Tata are in the communications game and miraculously they picked up on us. They will be a huge help in cracking America and reaching the 40 million diaspora."

The station, which was set up by Mayo entrepreneurs Pierce O'Reilly and Mairead Ni Mhaoilchiarain, already broadcasts to 15 million in the UK and Ireland on the Sky platform.

Griffin, who has roots in Mayo and previously appeared on the TV show The Secret Millionaire, sold his minicab firm Addison Lee for £300m in 2013 to private equity giant Carlyle.

The Westport-based station, which has 150 staff, has burned through €6m of the €15m earmarked by Griffin to set up production across the US and in each of the 32 counties.

Three people have been hired for its New York office, which eventually will have a staff of 13. Griffin said the London office will also be seeking to hire about 13.

Tata is part-owned by Pallonji Mistry, the richest Irish citizen alive, and run by his son, Cyrus. The biggest company in the group, Tata Consultancy Services, employs 140 here while the wider group employs over 600,000 globally.

Mistry became an Irish citizen in 2003 after to his marriage to an Irish citizen - Pat Perin Dubash, who was born in Dublin. Their two sons automatically became Irish citizens and have retained their passports.

"I am aware Pat is from Dublin - and whether she played a part in the deal, I don't know yet," said Griffin, who met and dined with senior Tata executives. "I am Irish and I know Irish are very loyal and she is no doubt capable of asking her husband if he felt he had a debt to pay."

Tata Communications is the official communications provider for Formula 1 and has spent $1.2bn on its global fibre network.

Griffin can't yet quantify how much they will invest. Tata didn't make an offer for IrishTV nor have they sought to take an equity stake, according to Griffin.

"I was surprised they didn't make an offer, but it doesn't appear to be their strategy."

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