Tag Archives: Denis O’Brien

Denis O’Brien; The Story So Far broadcast last night on RTÉ One

Last night.

Twitter reaction to RTÊ documentary, Denis O’Brien: The Story So Far.

Yesterday: Your Last Malta Teaser

Tonight.

At 9.35pm, on RTÉ One.

RTÉ’s business editor David Murphy presents a documentary profiling troubled tycoon and Malta resident, Denis O’Brien.

*popcorn*

 

RTÉ One will broadcast a feature length documentary profiling businessman Denis O’Brien next week.

Lawyers.

Set your VHS players.

Gareth Naughton writes:

In ‘Denis O’Brien: The Story So Far’,  RTÉ’s David Murphy follows O’Brien’s business career from early ventures including a home shopping channel which collapsed, his early successes in radio, the launch of telecoms group Esat and the controversial award of the second mobile phone licence.

It includes an interview with Michael Lowry

…Former US President Bill Clinton

..and contributions from former INM executives Gavin O’Reilly and the company’s late chairman James Osborne.

FIGHT/Sue!/Injunct!

Denis O’Brien: The Story So Far will air on RTÉ One on Wednesday, July 4 at 9.35pm.

Pic: Getty

From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smyth in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon.

And further to reports that, in November 2016, the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten informed Eoghan Ó Neachtáin, of Heneghan PR which represented Independent News and Media, that he planned to refer INM’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media Group to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland…

Two months before it was publicly announced…

During Topical Issues – taken by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and ahead of Minister Naughten’s statement to the Dáil in relation to the matter which is now thought to take place around 4.30pm – Ms Murphy said the following:

“Minister, when I submitted the topical, I referred to the implications of recent and escalating developments regarding INM based on the ODCE investigation into the company.

“At the time, of course, I was referring to significant concerns regarding what can only be considered as a hacking of emails which potentially compromised huge numbers of journalists and their sources and the major implications for damage, such inaction poses the independence of media and the protection of journalism.

“But as of today, I cannot ignore the most obvious escalating development which is the involvement of the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten.

On the 6th of December 2016, he stood in this chamber and told me in response to a priority question, he had only commenced the phase one assessment on the 24th of November 2016, his officials had not yet made any decision and that he had 30 days to make a decision on three options  -one of which was  a potential referral to the BAI [Broadcasting Authority of Ireland].

He said, and I’m quoting, that he ‘hadn’t received a report from his officials yet’.

The director of corporate enforcement’s affidavit states that a month earlier on the afternoon of the 11th of November, he personally told representative from Heneghan PR that he would be referring the proposal, proposed merger, to the BAI, based on the advice of his officials.

“I note that Heneghan PR, headed by Nigel Heneghan, advisory to Leslie Buckley and spokesman for INM and also member of the compliance committee of the BAI.

So here was a PR firm employed by INM and with close ties to all the close protagonists in INM making a direct contact with a minister and being made privy to a decision which I, as a parliamentarian, weeks later, was told the decision had not been made yet.

“The repercussions for this, I believe, are stunning – not least in relation to the implications it has for the potential market manipulation and inside dealing but also for the questions it raises in regards to corporate governance and INM and the axis of power between major shareholders of INM and his department.”

Ms Murphy went on to say that Minister Naughten should recuse himself for any role in media regulation.

She added:

“I also take exception, yet again, to being misled in this Dáil when I ask a parliamentary question and I believe I was mislead in respect of those replies on the 6th of December.”

Later

Ms Smyth said:

“If the media was free, why does Ireland have a higher concentration of media ownership than most other countries with one key individual whose name can never be mentioned whether in a committee or in this chamber, owns Sunday Independent, Sunday World, Evening Herald, has a stake in the Daily Star, The Kerryman, the Drogheda Independent, the Wicklow People, the Exford People, the Waterford People, and many radio stations such as Newstalk, Today FM.

“That is power, that is control, and that is a very, very wealthy individual whose name cannot be mentioned in these chambers, who has strong links with the Irish state, so much so that every time a very important function happening like Davos, or the New York Stock Exchange, he appears with key members of this government.

“And that friendly relationship has helped him to secure influence and has continued to help it exist. That is what needs to be challenged.”

Follow the Dáil proceedings live here

Earlier: Denis Denis

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dail this morning

This morning.

More details from the affidavit which the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan has given to the High Court – in a bid to have inspectors investigate Independent News and Media (INM) – emerged.

Simon Carswell and Mark Paul, in The Irish Times, reported that on November 12, 2016, former INM chairman Leslie Buckley forwarded an email to INM’s largest shareholder Denis O’Brien which Mr Buckley had received from PR executive Nigel Heneghan.

The email from Mr Heneghan detailed a conversation the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten had with Eoghan O’Neachtain, director of public affairs at Nigel Heneghan’s PR firm the day before, November 11, 2016.

[Mr O’Neachtain took up the role at Heneghan PR in 2015 – after he served as Press Secretary to three Governments and Taoisigh]

The Irish Times has reported that Mr O’Neachtain’s conversation with Minister Naughten was about INM’s proposed takeover of the regional newspaper group, called Celtic Media Group and, in this conversation, the minister told Mr O’Neachtain that he planned to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This discussion was then relayed to Denis O’Brien in the aforementioned email of November 12, 2016.

This was reportedly two months before the minister’s plans were made public.

Further to this…

This morning.

During Leaders’ Questions…

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was questioned about the matter.

Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald pointed out that the email sent to Mr O’Brien “stressed that the information contained within it should be treated with the strictest of confidence”.

Ms McDonald also said that the PR company didn’t log the engagement with the minister with the Lobbying Register.

As he responded, Mr Varadkar outlined the timeline of events, as he saw them – after he told the Dail that he is satisfied that Minister Naughten didn’t disclose any information which was confidential.

Mr Varadkar also said there appeared to be a misunderstanding about the process and that “it’s not a secret process“.

From his responses:

The minister informs me that it was the 4th of January 2017, and not November 2016. The information, as I said earlier, was not confidential. It is not unusual for PR companies and PR agents to use information that is not confidential or publicaly available and make out that somehow that it is confidential information.

“…I think deputy, almost anyone in Ireland can have access to a minister, it’s not that difficult to access politicians or ministers in Ireland, whether it’s through a constituency clinic or whether it’s simply by requesting a meeting or a phone call.”

“…In terms of timeline, I’m advised that the merge’s process went through the full rigour required of the Act and the guidelines after it was received by Minister Naughton on the 21st November, 2016.

The recommendation was made by officials on the 4th January 2017 – that the acquisition be referred to a phase two examination and that was approved by Minister Naughten on the 10th of January.”

Further to this…

A few weeks after this reported phonecall between Mr O’Neachtain and Minister Naughten on November 11, 2016, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy was told by Minister Naughten that he had not yet decided if he was going to refer the proposed takeover to the BAI (see above).

So.

It appears Minister Naughten told an INM representative but didn’t tell the Dail.

Deputy Murphy has said in a statement:

The entire matter really opens up questions, yet again, regarding the axis between powerful individuals and political decisions.“

Denis Naughten will give a statement to the Dail and take questions on foot of it at 3pm.

Meanwhile…

Readers may wish to recall that Nigel Heneghan was appointed to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in February 2015.

The position was not advertised.

At the time, the then Minister for Communications Alex White told The Sunday Times he wasn’t required to advertise the position as the compliance committee didn’t come under new rules for appointments to State boards.

In November 2016 – the same month that the alleged exchanges took place between INM representatives and the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten – Mark Tighe, in The Sunday Times, was reporting that Mr Heneghan had to excuse himself from discussions about several complaints it had dealt with because he was acting for two companies connected with Denis O’Brien.

Mr Tighe reported:

“Nigel Heneghan is a spokesman for Actavo, an O’Brien-owned construction services company formerly called Siteserv, and for Independent News & Media (INM), the newspaper publishing company in which O’Brien is the largest shareholder.

He declared conflicts of interests in relation to five cases before the BAI compliance committee, according to its 2015 annual report.”

“…Heneghan absented himself from cases involving complaints that dealt with water charges or Irish Water. Actavo was one of three firms contracted by Irish Water to install meters. It became a focus of protests after some people were temporarily jailed for physically stopping Actavo staff working on installations.

“Two of the cases in which Heneghan declared conflicts involved Newstalk, a national radio station owned by O’Brien’s Communicorp. The other three instances involved RTE Radio shows. Heneghan did not declare conflicts in relation to other Newstalk cases that did not involve water charges.”

O’Brien told of Minister’s plan to refer INM’s Celtic Media takeover (Simon Carswell, Mark Paul, The Irish Times)

BAI member in conflict due to O’Brien link (Mark Tighe, The Sunday Times, November 20, 2016)

Transcript: Kildare Street

Video: Mick Caul

Last night: ‘Breaches of Duty

Meanwhile…

In his disclosure, Mr [Robert] Pitt said that on January 25th, 2016, senior management at the company met Mr [Leslie] Buckley to discuss a strategy document being prepared for the board.

“Mr Pitt asserted that, during the course of the meeting, the chairman [Mr Buckley] had indicated that the priority should be to maximise returns to the two main shareholders, ie Mr O’Brien and Mr Dermot Desmond, as they had invested significantly in INM in recent years,” said Mr Drennan in his affidavit.

INM ‘should be’ run for Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond (Irish Times)

Thanks Gemma

From top: Denis O’Brien; Digicel’s 2020 debt yield rose to 15.4 percent from 8.5 percent, making it the ‘worst emerging markets performer this year’

It doesn’t rain but it pours.

O’Brien built his cell-phone empire, which stretches from Haiti to Papua New Guinea, on high-risk, high-yield debt. Since 2001, Digicel has accumulated about $6.5 billion of borrowings, mostly to build out networks across 31 regions.

More than two years after the company shelved a planned share sale in New York that was in part designed to pay down debt, and with recent earnings disappointing investors, bondholders want a positive catalyst. Digicel faces a $1.3 billion maturity in 2021, as well as the 2020 payment.

“We expect Digicel to address that with anticipation,” said Marie Fischer-Sabatie, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. “If the company doesn’t make material progress in 2018 and does not start to address the issue by the middle of this year, then we could start to see some pressure on ratings.”

Billionaire O’Brien Risks Investor Ire After Debt Yields Surge (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile…

Gulp.

From top: Red Flag; Independent House; clockwise, from top left: Denis O’Brien Colm Keaveney and Declan Ganley

Further to developments at Independent News and Media.

Refresh your memory stick with our comprehensive timeline of how we got here.

March 2, 2011:- The second and final report of the Moriarty Tribunal finds that former communications minister Michael Lowry had ‘secured the winning’ of the 1995 mobile licence for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone.

Judge Michael Moriarty finds the relationship between Mr O’Brien and Mr Lowry during the bid to be ‘an irregular and improper relationship between business and politics’. He describes two sterling payments to Mr Lowry by Mr O’Brien subsequent to the award, in 1996 and 1999, of £147,000 and £300,000 as ‘demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr Lowry’ during the licence process.

The findings of the tribunal are strongly disputed by Mr O’Brien.

October 15, 2011:– Denis O’Brien’s radio station Today FM confirms that journalist Sam Smyth’s Sunday radio show is being dropped as part of an initiative “to address a decline in listenership and to improve programming quality.” Smyth had previously commented in a newspaper and on television about Today FM’s owner O’Brien’s involvement in the Moriarty Tribunal.

October 31, 2011:The Irish Independent carries an interview with journalist Eamon Dunphy in which he criticises Denis O’Brien-owned radio station, Newstalk, stating that its owner “hates journalism and treated staff badly.” Mr Dunphy says: “Someone has to raise the red flag about this guy.”

April, 2012:– Mr O’Brien seizes control of Independent News and Media (“INM”) from the O’Reilly family. Tony O’Reilly’s son Gavin steps down as Chief Executive of INM.

May 8, 2012:– INM terminates the contract of Karl Brophy, INM Director of Corporate Affairs and Content Development. Brophy subsequently initiates proceedings for unfair dismissal against INM.

September 2012:Evening Herald editor Stephen Rae is appointed editor of the Irish Independent following the retirement of previous editor Gerry O’Regan.

October 2012:– Giving evidence in his unfair dismissal proceedings, Mr Brophy alleges receipt of “bizarre and threatening” text messages from Denis O’Brien’s spokesman, James Morrissey, about negative INM coverage of Mr O’Brien. Mr Brophy’s unfair dismissal proceedings against INM are subsequently settled.

February 17, 2013:The Sunday Business Post reports that Gavin O’Reilly is to be a director of a new public affairs consultancy being set up by Karl Brophy. The company’s name is Red Flag. Mr O’Reilly is subsequently appointed chairman.

June, 2013:- Irish Independent editor Stephen Rae is appointed Editor-in-Chief of INM responsible for the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and the Herald.

A statement from INM says that each newspaper will still retain its own editor, but Rae will be charged with ensure the titles are collaborative while still retaining their “unique tone of voice and ethos”.

July 19, 2014:- Mr Rae, in his role as group editor of INM, orders the presses to be stopped to amend a column written by Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris which features references to Denis O’Brien.

Copies of the original article did however appear, allowing comparisons between the two. Harris originally wrote: “Denis O’Brien is the major shareholder in INM. In theory, with 29% of the shares, he does not control it. In practice, he does.” The last sentence was deleted.

October 2014: The data breach, involving 19 listed people, begins.

December, 2014:– Anne Harris resigns as editor of the Sunday Independent.

June, 2015:– Colm Keaveney TD gives a speech in the Dáil alleging that Denis O’Brien was linked by the Moriarty Tribunal to “the largest single act of public corruption in monetary terms”.

October 8-9, 2015:– According to an affidavit subsequently sworn by Denis O’Brien, he arrives at the headquarters of the Communicorp Group, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2 to find an envelope containing a USB memory stick waiting for him on his desk. An access password “Chelsea10,”, was written on the inside of the envelope (which was not retained).

Mr O’Brien said he  gave the memory stick to his solicitor Aidan Eames who passed it on to cybersecurity and digital forensic analysis expert Espion.

A subsequent report by Espion identifies the stick as containing a dossier on Mr O’Brien compiled by Red Flag containing copies of various articles about Mr O’Brien published in the media and a draft of Mr Keaveney’s speech, amended by Karl Brophy.

October 13, 2015:– Denis O’Brien applies to the High Court for a search and seizure order allowing lawyers and investigators enter Red Flag’s offices to take control of the firm’s computers for the purposes of identifying the client who had commissioned the dossier.

His Affidavit refers to an investigation commissioned by him into negative news stories against him having preceded the receipt of the stick. The President of the High Court, Nicholas Kearns, refuses to grant the order sought but grants an order preventing Red Flag interfering with or removing computer material and other IT items from its offices.

October 14, 2015:– The USB memory stick is given to Martin Coyne, of digital forensics company Digitpol, and taken by him to the company’s offices in Rotterdam.

October 16, 2015:– Judge Colm MacEochaidh refuses Red Flag’s application for handover of the USB memory stick. Instead, he directs that it be given to Aidan Eames to hold pending further order, stating that there should be no interference with the stick. The fact that the stick is currently with Digitpol in Rotterdam is not disclosed to the Court or to Red Flag.

October 18, 2015:– Journalist Mark Hollingsworth, allegedly working on a freelance article regarding Denis O’Brien, tells the Sunday Business Post that he had obtained a copy of the dossier from Red Flag, but that he had not passed it on to anyone. Subsequently, it is alleged that Hollingsworth had been asked “look into” Mr O’Brien’s finances by Ambrose Carey, the co-founder and director of the London-based consultancy, Alaco.

October 24, 2015:– While in the custody of Digitpol, eight files are written onto the USB memory stick and subsequently overwritten and deleted, although fragments remain.

October 26, 2015:– The USB memory stick is returned to the jurisdiction.

October 29, 2015:– Red Flag is told that the USB memory stick is in the custody of Aidan Eames but is not told that it has only recently come into his possession.

November 10-12, 2015:– The USB key is sent back to Espion before being returned to Eames solicitors.

December 8-11, 2015:– Judge Colm MacEochaidh rejects an application by Denis O’Brien for an order compelling Red Flag to disclose the identity of the client for whom the dossier was prepared.

In the course of the hearing, Denis O’Brien’s barrister Michael Cush SC states that, although the USB memory stick was obtained during the course of an investigation which Denis O’Brien had commissioned from chartered accountant John Whelehan, of Kiev, Ukraine, into the suspected campaign against him, it was obtained in addition to, and not as a result of this investigation. Any statement in Mr O’Brien’s original Affidavit to the contrary was incorrect.

December 11, 2015:– Stroz Friedberg, an international cyber intelligence consultancy engaged by Red Flag, visits the offices of Eames solicitors to inspect the memory stick. A subsequent report by it identifies significant contamination of the stick as having taken place on 24 October, 2015 and again between 10-12 November, 2015.

December 16, 2015:– Colm Keaveney TD issues defamation proceedings against INM in respect of an article alleging that Red Flag was involved in drafting his Dáil speech. Mr Keaveney had previously said the speech was not influenced by any third party.

February 2016:– Judge Colm MacEochaidh refuses to grant orders compelling Red Flag to discover documents relating to the preparation of the dossier or the identity of the client for whom the dossier was prepared.

May, 2016:– Denis O’Brien sues Colm Keaveney for defamation arising out of the draft speech in the Red Flag dossier, seeking aggravated and exemplary damages.

June, 2016:– Colm Keaveney applies for voluntary bankruptcy and is declared bankrupt.

October 13, 2017:– The Court of Appeal rejects Denis O’Brien’s appeal against the refusal by Judge MacEochaidh of his discovery request.

The same day, O’Brien settles his legal action against Colm Keaveney.

December 4, 2017:– Mr Keaveney swears an affidavit for Denis O’Brien, in his proceedings against Red Flag, disclosing that he ‘believes’ businessman Declan Ganley, who lost to Mr O’Brien for the mobile licence – the subject of the Moriarty tribunal – was the Red Flag client for whom the dossier had been prepared.

December 2017:– Based on Keaveney’s affidavit, Denis O’Brien’s legal team lodge a motion to join Declan Ganley as a co-defendant to the proceedings against Red Flag.

January 2018: Alan Hynes, Keaveney’s former parliamentary assistant swears an affidavit on behalf of Red Flag, alleging that the veracity of Keaveney’s averments were tainted by the fact that he had agreed to co-operate with Mr O’Brien as part of the settlement of the defamation proceedings against him.

According to Mr Hynes, Keaveney had told him that he had met with a representative of Denis O’Brien, and had said to him: “Just tell me what he [O’Brien] wants said and I’ll say it.” Mr Keaveney files a further affidavit rejecting Hynes’ version of events.

March 22, 2018:– The High Court grants an order joining Declan Ganley as co-defendant to the Red Flag litigation.

March 24, 2018:– It is reported that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is to apply to the High Court on April 16, 2018, to appoint inspectors to investigate Independent News and Media (INM).

April 1: An affidavit filed by ODCE director Ian Drennan states that data involving 19 listed people was removed from the company’s premises, taken out of the jurisdiction and “interrogated” by at least six companies external to INM.

The list of 19 includes Jerry Healy SC and Jacqueline O’Brien SC (both of whom acted as counsel for the Moriarty Tribunal) as well as former INM board members and employees Karl Brophy, Mandy Scott (now also of Red Flag), Vincent Crowley, Donal Buggy, Joe Webb and James Osborne; journalists Sam Smyth, Maeve Sheehan, Brendan O’Connor; and public relations executive Rory Godson.

The ODCE director claims the data interrogation was directed by then INM chairman Leslie Buckley and paid for by Blaydon Limited, an Isle of Man company beneficially owned by Mr O’Brien.

Earlier: Why Did You Pay To Have These People Hacked?

Denis O’Brien (top) and Clockwise from top left: Karl Brophy, Vincent Crowley, Maeve Sheehan, Joe Webb, Brendan O’Connor, James Osborne, Jerry Healy SC, Donal Buggy, Jacqueline O’Brien SC, Rory Godson, Mandy Scott, Sam Smyth

Gavin Daly, in The Sunday Times, reported that an Isle of Man company controlled by Denis O’Brien – Independent News and Media’s largest shareholder – paid the bill for an IT firm called Trusted Data Solutions to gain access to INM’s computer network in 2014 without the board’s knowledge.

Mr Daly further reported that TDS accessed the email accounts of 19 current and former INM employees, including four journalists.

Further to this…

This morning.

The Irish Independent named 12 of the 19.

They are:

Karl Brophy – CEO of Red Flag and former director of corporate affairs at INM.

Vincent Crowley – former CEO of INM.

Maeve Sheehan
Sunday Independent journalist.

Joe Webb – former head of INM’s Irish operations.

Brendan O’Connor – Sunday Independent deputy editor and RTE broadcaster.

James Osborne
– former INM chairman (now deceased).

Jerry Healy SC – a senior counsel at the Moriarty Tribunal, for the tribunal.

Donal Buggy – former chief financial officer at INM.

Jacqueline O’Brien SC
– a senior counsel at the Moriarty Tribunal, for the tribunal.

Rory Godson – Former Sunday Tribune journalist, Sunday Times business editor and former director of corporate affairs at Goldman Sachs (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

Mandy Scott
– Former executive personal assistant to Karl Brophy and Gavin O’Reilly – when he was CEO – at INM. Ms Scott is now executive manager at Red Flag.

Sam Smyth – Former journalist at Sunday Tribune and Irish Independent. Mr Smyth covered the Moriarty Tribunal. According to Mr O’Reilly, during the final stages of the tribunal in 2010, Leslie Buckley telephoned Mr O’Reilly telling him that Denis O’Brien “very upset with Sam Smyth” and wondered if there was some way that Mr O’Reilly could take Mr Smyth off the story.

Sunday: Life’s A Breach

Meanwhile…

High Court investigator could quiz Independent News & Media over a suspected data breach (Gavin Daly, The Sunday Times)

TV presenter and barristers on list in INM suspected data breach (Dearbhail McDonald and Shane Phelan, Irish Independent)

Update: Look Hack In Anger 

UPDATE: