Owner & Board Member
Denis O’Brien founded Communicorp in 1989 and serves on the company’s Board of Directors. As a serial entrepreneur and businessman, Denis has helped Communicorp expand from its humble beginnings in Ireland to encompass dozens of media and broadcasting outlets across Europe.
In 1990, Denis co-founded Esat Telecom. The startup telecom company later won a national cellphone licence in open competition, helping Esat to become Ireland’s second GSM service provider. After years of growth and improvement in Irish mobile communications, Denis and his business partners sold Esat Telecom to British Telecom Plc for $2.3bn.
After his success with Esat, Mr O’Brien established Digicel Group , a full-service communications and entertainment company operating in the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia Pacific. In addition to providing affordable access to mobile networks and other services, Digicel aims to help meet the needs of the people in its markets. Through Denis O’Brien’s patronage, the Digicel Foundation has invested in more than 2,200 community improvement projects, including building schools and classrooms in Jamaica, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea. Denis and his wife Catherine also funded the reconstruction of Haiti’s iconic Iron Market in Port-au-Prince after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
As a serial entrepreneur, Denis has acquired various other businesses over the course of his career. He owned a share in Independent News & Media (INM), until he sold his stake to Mediahaus in 2019. He has also held interests in companies in the healthcare, industrial services, solar energy, hospitality, resort, and real estate industries. As a result of his business acumen and success, Denis was named Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998 by Ernst & Young.
Denis maintains a firm belief in the tenets of philanthrocapitalism, driving him to look for opportunities to improve the conditions of the people and communities in and around the areas where his businesses operate. Through the Digicel Foundation and the Iris O’Brien Foundation, named in honour of his mother, Denis has provided more than US$66 million to support organisations and projects in Ireland, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
In 2003, Denis was instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics World Summer Games to Dublin – the first time that the games had ever been held outside of the United States. The games brought approximately 7,000 athletes to Ireland from more than 150 nations around the world. Denis continues to serve as the Chairman of Council of Patrons for Special Olympics Ireland.
In addition to his philanthropic support, Denis serves on the boards of several charitable organisations, including Concern Worldwide US, which provides humanitarian aid around the world; Frontline Defenders, which supports human rights activism and which he co-founded; and the Haiti Action Network, of which he is the Chairman. For his dedication to benevolent causes, Denis has received a number of awards, including the Order of Jamaica in 2015, Haiti’s National Order of Honour and Merit (Ordre National Honneur et Merite) in 2011, and an Annual Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2013. In 2019, the Ireland-US Council presented Denis with the 2019 Award for Outstanding Achievement for his work strengthening the bonds between the two nations.
Denis holds a BA degree from University College Dublin (UCD) and an MBA from Boston College. He has also received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from both UCD (2006) and the University of the West Indies (2015). Mr O’Brien has provided support to institutions of higher education through funding for the O’Brien Centre of Science at UCD, an endowment of the Denis O’Brien Fellowship for Irish students at the Boston College Carroll School of Management, and contributions to Trinity College Dublin’s business school. He has also provided support for a scholarship programme at Dublin City University.