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O'Brien joins board of telecoms private equity firm


Denis O'Brien  (Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg)

Denis O'Brien (Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg)


Denis O'Brien (Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg)

Billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien has joined the board of a new $16bn (€14.6bn) private equity-style fund created to invest in telecoms and technology firms across Europe and the US.

Russian oil and gas billionaire Mikhail Fridman and a number of partners created the fund, called LetterOne Technology (L1Technology).

Mr O'Brien is the founder of mobile phone network provider Digicel. It has operations in 33 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific and has spent over €4.5bn on assets and infrastructure over the past 13 years. He is also a shareholder in Independent News & Media, which owns this newspaper.

Other high-profile entrepreneurs who sit on the board of L1Technology include Julian Horn-Smith, a member of the founding management of Vodafone. Ex-Skype executive Russ Shaw, former Google payments executive Osama Bedier and Lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman are also board members, reports indicate.

L1Technology chief executive Alexey Reznikovich said the company has funds of up to $25bn (€23bn) to invest in struggling telecom firms that need fresh capital injections, or technology companies that are making apps or streaming services that could be used globally.

In addition to finding investments, L1Technology will act as a holding company for stakes that Fridman and his partners hold in Turkcell and VimpelCom.

"New acquisitions will benefit from our significant expertise, and will gain access to our existing customer base, which numbers over 200 million across existing networks," Mr Reznikovich said.

He added that the new fund is designed to disrupt the traditional telecoms industry while European firms risk dying unless they change the incumbent mindset that exists.

Telecom firms need to refocus on launching new services in activities like banking and content distribution for their customers, he said.

"The telecoms industry has become a victim of its inability to transform itself to address the new challenges," he told the 'Financial Times'.

"Many companies will go under or be merged. They will vanish one way or another," he said, adding that these firms need to use their relationships with customers to better effect."

Irish Independent