Denis O'Brien

A firm believer in philanthrocapitalism, Denis O’Brien is the founder and Chairman of Digicel Group and a number of other businesses in a variety of sectors. In addition to his extensive business portfolio, O’Brien also serves various non-profit groups and organisations in leadership roles.

About Denis O'Brien

Denis O’Brien grew up in Dublin, Ireland and attended University College Dublin, earning a BA in Politics and History. He then studied at Boston College in the United States and earned an MBA in Corporate Finance in 1982. Seven years later, Denis founded the media holdings company Communicorp.

In 1991, he made his start in the telecommunications sector by forming Esat Telecom. For the next nine years, he served as Esat’s Chairman and CEO, establishing the company as the second largest telecommunications company in Ireland and floating it on NASDAQ in 1997. In 2000, he sold Esat to the BT Group, using the funds from the sale to help finance his next business venture: Digicel Group.

The model of capitalism has to change. If you want to build a sustainable business in an emerging market, you’ve got to fund impactful community projects, particularly in education”

O’Brien founded Digicel in 2001 and served as the Chairman for 23 years. In January 2024, O’Brien stepped down from his role as Chairman but will continue serving as a member of the board of directors at Digicel.

Since its founding, O’Brien has overseen the opening of 32 telecommunications markets in the Caribbean and Central America with major operations in Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Under his leadership, Digicel focused on democratising communications with a particular focus on connecting underserved or remote communities to transformative communications technologies. He strived to push Digicel to reach more people in more places so that everyone can participate in and benefit from the knowledge economy.

Digicel Caribbean Headquarters,
Kingston, Jamaica
As a serial entrepreneur, Denis O’Brien has a wide range of business interests. Alongside his 23 years as the Chairman of Digicel, he owns the Quinta do Lago golf and wellness resort in Portugal, and Camiral Golf & Wellness in Spain. He also has an extensive portfolio of property investments.

O’Brien is passionate about giving back to his communities. He founded the first Digicel Foundation in Jamaica in 2004 in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan with a vision of helping to create a world where no one gets left behind. Currently, he serves as a United Nations Broadband Commissioner for Digital Development, where he is helping promote access to broadband internet in developing countries and forcing big tech to contribute to the cost of bringing broadband access to the 3.5 billion people who currently don’t have access to the internet. Additionally, Denis served on the board of Concern Worldwide US, an organisation dedicated to helping make positive change around the world.

Learn More About Denis O’Brien

Denis O'Brien, founder and chairman of Digicel, attends ribbon cutting in Haiti
DENIS O'BRIEN, through his work at Digicel, has built 188 schools in Haiti

Leadership Insights

As the 1998 EOY Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year, Denis O’Brien was the first guest of the EOY Architects of Business documentary series. This series features Entrepreneur of the Year alumni, who share their stories and insights that have guided each on their road to success. Beginning the series, Denis discusses his various entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours across his tenured business experience.

Watch the full interview here

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Denis O’Brien has time and again channelled his energy and resources into giving back and providing opportunities for others. He has used his platform to write about altruistic causes and direct the public’s attention to education, community development and special needs. He has also appeared in documentary films that focus on the progression of human rights.

With a particular focus on helping vulnerable populations within his Digicel markets, he founded the first Digicel Foundation in 2004 in Jamaica. Since its formation, programmes and interventions from the Foundation have helped millions of people across Haiti, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago.

Denis O'Brien, founder and chairman of Digicel, presents a gift to a local community organisation on behalf of the Digicel Foundation

Denis O’Brien serves as Chairman of the Council of Patrons for Special Olympics Ireland – a relationship which dates back to when he served as Chair of the 2003 World Summer Games in Ireland. He also funds the Iris O’Brien Foundation, which is focused on promoting human rights, helping people affected by disasters, supporting people with disabilities, educational causes and the promotion of the arts.

He has invested in his alma maters. The O’Brien Centre of Science at University College Dublin (UCD) was funded by and named after him, and he has pledged financial support to students pursuing an MBA at the Boston College Carroll School of Management through the O’Brien Fellowship.