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Denis O’Brien

Chairman and principal shareholder of the privately-owned Digicel Group

Denis O’Brien is an Irish serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. O’Brien is Chairman and principal shareholder of the privately-owned Digicel Group, one of the fastest growing communications providers in the world. The company is a Digital Operator delivering digital experiences via its suite of 8 apps.

Mr. O’Brien founded Digicel in 2001 when the company launched a GSM cellular phone service in the Caribbean. The Digicel Group has extended its operations to 32 markets with over 1.4 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific regions, including Jamaica, Haiti and Papua New Guinea.

Mr. O’Brien is one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors including radio, media, property, leisure and oil distribution. He is a former recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Denis O’Brien founded the Esat Telecom Group plc and built it throughout the 1990’s until its sale to British Telecom plc for € 2.4 billion.

Denis is the founder and chairman of Communicorp, a Dublin-based media group, which includes digital media outlets and radio networks in Ireland, the UK, and Europe. Communicorp operates popular radio stations, including Dublin’s 98FM, as well as the UK’s Heart and Smooth Radio.

Outside of his extensive business interests, Denis chaired the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland. It was the first time the Summer Games were staged outside the US with teams from 160 countries and over 30,000 volunteers.

Denis is a Director on the US Board of Concern Worldwide. O’Brien is also a member of the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which aims to increase access to broadband internet across developing countries in cooperation with the private sector. He also chairs the Clinton Global Initiative Haiti Action Network.

In addition, he is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Frontline Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Based in Dublin, Frontline Defenders is working to ensure that the standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998, are known, respected and adhered to worldwide.

O’Brien founded the Digicel Foundation in Jamaica, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad & Tobago to focus on philanthropy and community development. Digicel Foundation helps communities with education and literacy, special needs, and related projects. Since its inception, the foundation has helped over 3 million people and invested US$156 million in thousands of projects.

Digicel Foundation’s impact:

  • Development of over 500 classrooms in Papua New Guinea’s rural areas.
  • Built 185+ schools in Haiti after the destruction of natural disasters.
  • 60,000 children in Haiti have access to education.
  • With USAID and Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, achieved 86.5% literacy rate.

Through Digicel Foundation, O’Brien launched a $42 million (JMD) COVID-19 pandemic response programme in May 2020. Operation SAFE Mode stands for Sanitise, Advocate, Feed and Enable. The programme works to assist vulnerable populations of Jamaica navigate the pandemic by promoting social distancing, running food distribution, donating tablets for distance education, and more.

In 2000 he established The Iris O’Brien Foundation to identify and assist projects in Ireland and internationally which aim to alleviate disadvantaged communities.

Denis holds a BA degree from University College Dublin and an MBA from Boston College.