Life

Denis O’Brien is an entrepreneur like his father and an activist philanthropist like his mother.

“I was brought up with a set of ethical and moral values which have led me to believe that what financial fortune my circumstances have allowed me the privilege of enjoying has always given rise to a proportionate obligation, to my  fellow man, to the world in which I am living and the needs of those not merely less fortunate than me, but whose ability to live fulfilling and dignified lives have been compromised by the circumstances in which their lives have begun.”

Honduran Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Activist Wins 2016 Front Line Defenders Award. Pictured was (centre) 2016 Front Line Defenders Award recipient Ana Mirian Romero of Honduras with her baby Priscilla (age 4 months), Mary Lawlor, Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Former President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, Mrs. Mary Robinson and Denis O’Brien, Chairman of the Board of Front Line Defenders. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

“My father taught me how to sell and to present – not to put my hands in my pockets and to get a good suit. Dad gave me a private education in business. What I’m doing now is no different: he was selling horse-care products, I’m selling mobile phones. He instilled in me that the market is not Ireland, you’ve got to get out into the world. We got into the car every morning and he’d tell me about the problems of getting things out of the docks or people not paying on time. And every evening at 7.30 I’d get the full download a second time when he came home.”

“My mother is  a serial protestor, an enthusiastic advocate of human rights, she protested outside the Russian embassy on the treatment of Chechens and she was very pro the Sandinistas in the 1980s. She inspired me to be Chairman and Co-Founder of Frontline, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, whose mission is to “protect, defend, support, and act for and with human rights defenders whose lives and health are at risk because of their peaceful and legitimate activities.” In 2000 I established The Iris O’Brien Foundation, “the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion and the doing of works for the public good and activities of an ancillary and related nature, subject in each case to same being legally charitable.” The foundation has spent nearly €15.4m on charitable works in her name.”

Denis O’Brien is Chairman and principal shareholder of the privately-owned Digicel Group, one of the fastest growing cellular companies in the world.

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 11.9 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and South 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 international telecoms, radio, media, property, aircraft leasing, golf, online recruitment and other interests. He also founded Communicorp Group which owns and manages a portfolio of media and broadcasting-related companies in Ireland, Bulgaria and Latvia. 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. 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, the 2003 Summer Games were the most successful ever. Denis is a Director on the US Board of Concern Worldwide and a member of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development. In addition, he is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Frontline, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Based in Dublin, Frontline 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. Frontline’s work consists of research, advocacy, communications/technical assistance and emergency evacuation of human rights activists. 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.