Denis O’Brien, Fine Gael And The Water Meter Deal






From top: Former Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan; Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes; Denis O’Brien; a water meter; Siteserv logo.


On March 15, 2012, Denis O’Brien – through his Isle of Man-based acquisition vehicle, Millington – bought Siteserv for €45.4million cash from the IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank.

Law firm Arthur Cox represented both IBRC and Millington during the sale.

At the time of the sale, Mr O’Brien owed Anglo hundreds of millions of euro while Siteserv owed Anglo €150million.

The sale involved IBRC agreeing to writing off €100million of Siteserv’s €150million debt.

Mr O’Brien acquired the business on a debt-free basis.

In addition, just under €5million was distributed to Siteserv’s shareholders, with them believed to have received €3.92 for every share they owned.

Soon after the sale, it was reported that some other bidders for Siteserv were unhappy with the deal.

It was reported that Australian hedge fund Anchorage Capital offered a higher price – €52million – but that ‘elements of the offer were considered less attractive then the O’Brien bid’.

It was also reported that French company Altrad claimed it was denied the opportunity to make an offer for Siteserv – saying it had been prepared to offer €60million for the firm but that it was ‘effectively denied the opportunity because its representative was told the Irish group was not for sale’.

Ray Neilson, a senior manager with Altrad, told the Irish Times he had emailed then Siteserv CEO Brian Harvey four times between 2011 and shortly before the deal was agreed with Mr O’Brien but that he was told the firm was not for sale. These claims were rejected by Siteserv.

In July 2013,  GMC Sierra won a State contract to install water meters in Dublin city, the Midlands, Wicklow, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim.

GMC Sierra is comprised of GMC Utilities Group and Sierra Support Services Group. Sierra is a subsidiary of Siteserv.

Last December, Independent TD for Kildare North, Catherine Murphy raised her concerns about GMC Sierra’s water meter contract, in the Dáil, asking how could GMC Sierra be awarded a contract [by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan] for water meters even though it didn’t legally come into existence until July 15, 2013, 15 days after the closing date for bids.

She also asked Finance Minister Michael Noonan if he was satisfied that the IBRC acted in the best interests of the State when it sold Siteserv to Denis O’Brien/Millington.

In his reply, Mr Noonan stated that the IBRC acted “at an arm’s length to the State” and that “commercial decisions in relation to IBRC were solely a decision for the bank.”

Further to this…

Ms Murphy has been doing some more digging – in particular, on the matter of the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien/Millington.

In a parliamentary question, Ms Murphy asked Minister Noonan to furnish her with the so-called Relationship Framework and Operational Protocol which oversaw the interactions between the Finance Minister and the former management and board [headed by Alan Dukes, former Fine Gael leader] of IBRC before it was liquidated.

Ms Murphy asked Mr Noonan to indicate to her the precise financial thresholds under the framework which would have “triggered mandatory consultation in advance of a transaction and/or disposal”.

In a reply on February 26 last,  Minister Noonan confirmed to Ms Murphy that the bank would consult with the minister in relation to “any transaction which resulted in an adverse impact on total regulatory capital of the bank of greater than €100million would require interaction between the minister and the IBRC”.

Further to this, Ms Murphy then asked, if that was the protocol, why wasn’t Minister Noonan involved in discussions with IBRC, regarding the Siteserv sale.

In a reply received last night, Minister Noonan stated that the protocol only came into effect on March 29, 2012 – 14 days after the Siteserv sale was completed.

Last night, Ms Murphy said:

“I’m not surprised by the replies which confirm what I, and others, have long suspected – that the background to this deal and the eventual awarding of the metering contract is mired in convenient circumstances that all amount to something which leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of most right minded citizens.”

Meanwhile, readers may also wish to recall how – following on from Enda Kenny’s controversial ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with Mr O’Brien on March 19, 2012 – on March 28, 2012, Labour’s Joan Burton spoke about Mr O’Brien in the Dáil, saying:

“It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals… We live in a Republic and the representation of each citizen should be what counts rather than the amount of money a particular citizen can spend. We can look forward to a period of reform in which this Government will change the political landscape and our capacity to report and hold to account lobbyists.”

Good times

Previously: Contains Impurities

Thanks Catherine Murphy

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68 thoughts on “Denis O’Brien, Fine Gael And The Water Meter Deal

  1. Rep

    All these attacks on O’Brien are disgusting. He’s a great guy. He’s totally uncorrupt. He creates so many jobs, not because he wants to make profit, but because he’s a lovely guy. He’s a happily married family man too, he’s not sleezy at all.

    1. scottser

      apparently he’s very amiable, charming and unpretentiious. people i know who have met or worked for him have only good things to say about him, that he’s the type that remembers birthdays, quick to put the hand in the pocket etc. it clicks something in the irish psyche that it’s only begrudgers who’d deny him his few bob. he is extremely clever, manipulative and devious in how he controls people though; he’d give bertie a run for his money..

      1. Bobby

        People don’t begrudge him his money. They don’t like him controlling Irish politics and media.

        1. scottser

          people who are removed from him and see what he does objectively are critical of his influence. as i say, anyone who has a personal experience of him tends to ignore this and place a primary on ‘what they know’ as opposed to what they should know.

          1. 3stella

            Personally with my limited dealings with DOB, I found him very sound, easy going, bright and rational. It was some of his underlings that I found were some of the most obnoxious, irrational human beings I ever had to work with. For their loyalty some are now multi millionaires,. In general he seems to treat trusted hardworking staff well…

          2. Buzz

            @3stella Good cop, bad cop. He’s playing good cop while getting his underlings to pull the punches.

        2. Yorick

          + 0% of 0 national newspapers, 0% of 0 regional newspapers, 0 radio stations, 0 knowledge of not-bad-lookin’ Michael Lowry, 0 involvement in the dropping of a critical radio journalist, and 0 debt write-downs (inconveniently with 0 knowledge of 0 ministers not from the same political party that Michael Lowry was not in at the time he was found to receive payments from Mr O’Brien which did not form the basis of the awarding of 0 mobile phone licences).

          It’s a thing of nothing…

      2. Drogg

        I was at a talk he gave before to a group of business people. He comes across as being very friendly man but most people who know him will scurry out of the way when they see him coming. During his talk which he was very relaxed and casual he cam across as uncle Denis as he joked about his manipulation of the government, how the left hated him because he was a capitalist and for all the young entrepreneurs in the room how they should just talk the risks of doing things slightly on the wrong side of the law cause when your successful you can buy your way out of trouble in this country.

        1. Anomanomanom

          Well that never happened. He is no where near stupid and in no way would he say/admit to what you said he said.

        2. dave

          this hi lights the fact that the powers that be make it easy for the man to do these’s easy for people to direct their anger at him but the anger should be directed at his cohorts , the people we entrust to run our country

      3. Lilly

        I know someone who knew him well in his youth who says he’s dangerous. I could go into detail but I’ll spare BS the legal writs. Let’s just say the charm is a mask.

      4. SOMK

        “he’s the type that remembers birthdays”

        “he is extremely clever, manipulative and devious”

        A mobile phone licence isn’t far away from being a licence to print money, give me a licence to print money and I’ll promise to remember everyone’s birthday (I’ll hire a memory expert to train me) and I’ll always put the hand in the pocket if people around me need it, I’ve a decent IQ to boot, I know a little psychology, if that’s the sole criteria by which these things are to be judged where’s my phone licence already?

        The question is a simple one, it’s one of efficiency, when you have a degree of monopoly control, you get profit from mostly rent seeking behaviour (that’s not Marx but Ricardo BTW), it’s invariably parasitic, and not necessarily in a direct way, like someone shop lifting, but the very nature of your power means that things happen easier if they go through you, take Irish water, let’s assume the system is in dire need of updating, leaks all over the gaff, it’s an emergency, what are we doing? Installing metres. I mean if there was a famine on the Isle of Man and a government sent over cash registers first, it’d be both an immoral and cynical act. To corrupt is to bend something to your will. Even only slightly. Here is a man who’s power reaches so far he can even control what words people type into the internet about him.

        It’s not about him, it’s nothing personal, alls fair in love, war and business, it’s about the power, it’s a corrupting force, it’s inefficient there should be checks and balances against it, this is basic common sense, read a history book, read a paper on the psychology of entitlement, how money is a very bad motivator, how inequality fundamentally damages the levels of trust in a society, Ireland is in many respects a genuinely remarkable country, probably because the people are used to being stifled, have learned to live with it, anyone who points this out is instantly distrusted “oh so what’s your game then?”, lack of trust you see, people subconsciously made to suspect anyone telling them something about how the world around them mightn’t be ideal and they suspect you instantly, remember someone’s birthday you’re a ‘great guy’.

        David Ricardo was a very rich broker who also was alarmed at how unproductive what he did was, so he challenged the theories of Adam Smith and came up with the notion of rent seeking, that all money is essentially taken from the land. He knew what he was doing was economically destructive, he wrote books about it and pushed it to such an extent that his ideas for a period were government policy. I do not know if he was good at remembering birthdays.

    2. Feargal Mooney

      laugh my ass off… you my friend are either delusional, on drugs, or both… O’Brien is a [redacted]
      As are you. now go crawl back under that rock from which you crawled out from under. “You Fraud”

    3. Fergus the magic postman

      Now say that with a straight face, and throw in how great the government are, and you’ll be the singer of broken wings.

    1. Niallo

      Sure, lets throw more money away for 0 result, why not.
      Stamp your little feet, while your at it

    1. Disgruntled Goat

      Thanks for deleting my post and leaving the (now) orphan spelling correction. I only repeated what was in Moriarty.

  2. Soundings

    Wouldn’t trust any action by senior FGers which affect DOB.

    Remember Enda told us in 2013 that the main thing he learned about in Davos 2013 was the state of the telecommunications market in Burma, this at a time when DOB was spending a lot of money on preparing a bid for a Burmese mobile licence (which he ultimately failed to win) and Enda later revealed he only had three meetings with heads of state at Davos 2013, and one of them was with the president of Haiti, the highly corrupt country where DOB controls the mobile phone business. Enda said none of this had anything to do with DOB.

    In just over two weeks, it will be the four year anniversary of the publication of the Moriarty Tribunal report, a report which some, perhaps many, people believe provides the foundation for serious criminal charges to be pursued against DOB.

    1. ahno

      Soundings, do you have an ulterior motive re Moriarty Tribunal? I find your anticorruption stance ( albeit laudable) re DOB to be at odds with your stance re the O Donnells , describing them in your words as “decent” people.

      1. Soundings

        If the O’Donnells are suspected of doing anything illegal, then throw the book at them. But they’re not.

        They lost heavily on their property investments. Like many property people, they used their home as collateral, and now they’re about to lose it. And they’re trying everything possible to stop that seizure.

        They sought bankruptcy in the UK, claiming it was their centre of main interest. The British courts disagreed. Nothing illegal in that, it was arguable, but the courts didn’t accept it. They were bankrupted by Bank of Ireland in Ireland where they face a 3-year bankruptcy rather than 12-months in the UK. No matter how you look at it, they’re bankrupt, but there’s nothing there as far as I know that could be considered criminal.

        They are going to lose what was the family home. It is genuinely difficult for them and I’m skeptical of the perception that they have millions at their disposal, they’re not looking for sympathy and are savvy enough not to expect it. They are decent people, this will be a hard week for them, they’ll get back on their feet eventually. That is all.

        1. Lilly

          LOL, Brian O’Donnell is to decency what Denis O’Brien is to an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay :)

        2. Michael Stones

          Well I cannot feel sorry for them they let the greed consume them and now when they lost most (not all) of their money want a free life

  3. Just sayin'

    I’m not a fan of O’Brien but there’s no actual evidence of anything illegal mentioned above and only some circumstantial evidence of anything immoral. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

    1. Bobby

      The “circumstantial evidence” is more than enough to warrant an investigation into all the allegations. But the government refuse point blank. There is actually no reason at all not to investigate as it is in the public interest. The fact that they won’t is what we all should be worried about and be demanding answers to.

      1. SweetPeteato

        The tribunal was an investigation Nothing happened. Best to leave him alone and worry about someone else. Pick someone with less power/money/political protection to send to jail. Has that bird up in Donegal paid her TV licence yet?

      2. Dan

        By the government refusing point blank, one must question what have they to gain by not having an investigation. Are they implicit in the awarding of the water meter contract? Maybe but maybe not. When you control a proportion of the media, you can try and keep stories and allegations out of public view. Ignore it and hope it’ll go away.

      3. Talbot O'Meara

        If you want to protest DOB,
        forget about inquires or applying the law
        don’t pay your water bill and
        don’t get your petrol at Topaz or Esso.
        BOYCOTT HIM !. that way we will drive him out
        of the country. It worked in the past for people.
        Stop relining on ‘your government’

    2. Neilo

      Agreed. If the facts – facts mind, not polemic or speculation – point towards criminal activity, then we have a justice apparatus that comes into play. Otherwise, tribunals are nobbut hot air, surmise, a crude weapon for electioneering and a monster pay day for lawyers.

  4. Christopher

    I look forward to reminding every single FG canvaser at the next election that I will never vote for parties that are in league with [redacted] businessmen.

  5. Mr. T.

    O’Brien’s interests should be hobbled, blocked, boycotted, hamstrung, undermined at every single juncture. He’s no model citizen and certainly shows no respect for his citizenship or anyone else’s. I detest the man and everything he stands for.

  6. Kolmo

    Offshore Media/Business type offers domestic media strength to help favorable party to get elected, promises made to offshore type by neo-con party if elected, party will hand him a sweet contract-, they get elected, he gets sweet contract.
    That is what everyone thinks, even the dogs on the street, everyone except the newspapers, radio stations etc…no amount of online shillbots can dismiss what this all looks like.

    1. rotide

      Clearly it was all DOB’s help that got FG elected this time.

      Nothing to do with what FF did the country. Nothing at all.

      It is mindblowing what you people will say to make something fit your narrative.

  7. Miq

    Do the carpets match the curtains with Mr O’Brien?
    If so, I want me a slice of that cake.

  8. Truth in the News

    There needs to be established a Society for the Protection of Dennis O’Brien.
    Who should be appointed as honourary patrons from political elite….?
    Suggestions Please.

  9. Tomas Ryan

    GMC Sierra is not a subsidiary of SiteServ. A simple google search will show you that GMC is a joint venture of two companies, those being GMC Group and Sierra. Sierra is a subsidiary of SiteServ, GMC is not. A fairly significant error on the part of the author.

Comments are closed.

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