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Businessman looks to prove campaign against him


Denis O'Brien's decision may have been the right one in business terms

Denis O'Brien's decision may have been the right one in business terms

Denis O'Brien's decision may have been the right one in business terms

It is the stuff of an international espionage novel. Allegations of a concerted campaign against a high-profile businessman with interests abroad.

At the centre of the claims is a low-profile communications company with big aspirations, run by a man who has history with the tycoon. Also involved are private investigators and a trail of negative press about the businessman.

All has played out in the High Court in Dublin, where we now know the parties are Denis O'Brien and a small firm known as Red Flag Consulting operated by Karl Brophy.

Mr Brophy was the author of a defamatory article about Denis O'Brien in the Mirror newspaper back in 1998 for which the telecoms magnate won what was then record damages of €750,000. This was later reduced on appeal.

Mr Brophy later turned up as the €300,000 per year corporate affairs director of INM where he was a visible supporter of then-chief executive Gavin O'Reilly during the boardroom battle for the company, which operates this newspaper.

In that prolonged war, Mr O'Brien eventually loosened the grip of the O'Reilly family on the company.

On leaving INM, Karl Brophy was involved in litigation with the company, after which he set up Red Flag. The firm, with offices in London, Brussels, Paris and Dublin, later secured clients such as British American Tobacco. Gavin O'Reilly was appointed chairman of the company.

The High Court has heard Mr O'Brien received a memory stick from an anonymous source which contained damaging allegations against him, and, it is claimed, originated in Red Flag.

Mr O'Brien apparently has been concerned for some time at the number and regularity of hostile stories about him here and abroad.

He was concerned the drip-feed of stories was being orchestrated as they appeared excessive even for a person who is in the public eye because of business interests at home and abroad.

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The court has heard the businessman feared there was a campaign being mounted against him funded by a unknown entity with the aim of damaging his reputation. In the last year there have been many stories about Digicel, Mr O'Brien's purchase of a new jet, and the Moriarty Tribunal amongst others, mainly negative.

The campaign, as the O'Brien camp would see it, culminated in accusations, alluded to in court, being made against him in the Dail.

The memory stick the court was told contained documents such as Who is Denis O'Brien?" and "The Moriarty Tribunal Explainer", and Irish and international media articles about the businessman which he believes were mostly unfavourable to him.

All eyes will now be on the High Court on Friday where the court case resumes.

Mr O'Brien no doubt will be hoping to get clarity on whether or not there has been an orchestrated campaign against him. Red Flag on its website boasts: "In a world of public relationships, a crisis can erupt instantly and mushroom out of control in days if not hours. This emergency can strike in any part of your organisation."

As a behind-the-scenes company that represents those in the headlines, it can hardly have expected to have been thrust into the spotlight in such a fashion in the last 48 hours.

Presumably, it has a plan.

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