Get more, expect more

Denis O'Brien gets a lot of press. Some of it he probably sees as good, in that it reflects his view of the world and the performance of his business activities and gives him the credit and respect he believes is due for becoming rich.


Some of it, however, he clearly perceives to be bad, judging by the legal correspondence he has engaged in with various newspapers and broadcasters, either disputing certain facts or claiming that the facts have been presented in a manner that is unfavourable to him.

For example, he is sensitive to the reporting that brought him in front of the Moriarty tribunal and continuing coverage of that investigation. He gets exercised about coverage of his (legal) non-payment of tax on his subsequent €250 million windfall from his sale of his share in Esat Telecom, even though he had appeared on The Late Late Show and said that he would pay 20 per cent capital gains tax.

There were no such problems last week. Readers of the financial pages in the main daily newspapers learnt a little bit more about Denis O'Brien's business adventures in the Caribbean. O'Brien flew out reporters from the Irish Times and Irish Independent (of which he is now effectively a 3 per cent owner) to observe the launch of the Digicel mobile phone service in Trinadad and Tobago.

What a story they had to tell. They reported that police had to be called to calm excited shoppers on the island when mobile phones offered by O'Brien's company went on sale.

Readers were told that Digicel has invested over $1.5 billion in 16 islands in the Caribbean to develop a brand that is even more popular than Coca-Cola in Jamaica. The company will generate revenues of $1 billion by 2008, "but $1 billion is not the end game, there are many more opportunities out there. It [Digicel] is the best investment I have ever made".

It would be interesting to know the views of Ossie Kilkenny, former accountant to U2, who apparently alerted O'Brien to the potential of the region. However, the pair fell out and Kilkenny sued.

A potentially explosive case in the High Court was settled last year, just before some sensational claims were made, with an undisclosed payment to Kilkenny. There are unconfirmed rumours that he may have received as much as €30 million, which seems enormous, but to O'Brien is just the price of a house.

Unfortunately, confidentiality agreements mean that particular story might never be told in full. Which is a pity, because it might be entertaining and enlightening as to the determination of Irish entrepreneurs to succeed.