Denis O’Brien: The Story So Far, RTÉ One, Wednesday, July 4th at 9.35pm
Denis O’Brien, the richest native-born Irishman, is never far from the headlines. This feature length documentary looks at his career and hears from his admirers and critics.
RTÉ’s David Murphy traces O’Brien’s rise from his childhood growing up in Ballsbridge with friend Conn Clissman recalling his “boisterous” nature. “Some referred to him as Denis the Menace inevitably because he was a likeable rogue, I think. He pushed the boundaries at times of having a bit of fun – in his eyes. It wasn’t always taken in the best possible spirit by those who had to deal with the outcomes,” he says.
The documentary follows O’Brien’s business career from early ventures including a home shopping channel which collapsed, his early successes in radio, the launch of telecoms group Esat and the controversial award of the second mobile phone licence. It includes an interview with Michael Lowry in which he rejects the findings of the tribunal which accused him of ‘securing’ the licence for Denis O’Brien.
The story goes right up to the present day where O’Brien now owns telecoms group Digicel, with 14 million customers in the Caribbean, and is the biggest private media owner in Ireland. The documentary reports on the growth of Digicel in Jamaica and on its philanthropic work in Haiti. Former US President Bill Clinton discusses O’Brien and responds to allegations by the Trump Campaign in 2016 about his links to him. It also includes interviews with Digicel figures and athlete Usain Bolt, who has been sponsored by the company.
The documentary examines the boardroom battles at Independent News and Media up to recent allegations of a data breach at the company. It includes contributions from former INM executives Gavin O’Reilly and the company’s late chairman James Osborne.
This is the third documentary by RTÉ’s David Murphy, who previously charted the careers of former newspaper baron Tony O’Reilly and Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.