About Denis O’Brien

Denis O’Brien is equal parts entrepreneur and humanitarian. As a proponent of philanthrocapitalism, he believes, “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.”

Philanthropist Denis O’Brien

Irish businessman Denis O’Brien is well known for founding Digicel in 2001, which has become a multinational telecommunications organisation. Digicel’s goal was to regularise communications in underrepresented communities. Today, it offers award-winning LTE and home fibre networks while staying committed to corporate social responsibility. O’Brien is also deeply passionate about helping to close the digital divide. First, he has expanded Digicel’s reach with the Digicel Foundation. In 2004, the first Digicel Foundation was established in Jamaica. Since then, it has spread to other countries that Digicel operates in, including Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. In each location, it supports areas such as education and special needs through projects, financial grants, volunteering, the creation of jobs and the facilitation of trainings and certifications. Second, Digicel has implemented an environmental social governance (ESG) report that outlines its green or sustainable practises. 

Aside from telecommunications, Denis O’Brien is a patron of a variety of altruistic initiatives. As a lifelong sports fan, he has given back to the sport of football and magnified the opportunities it provides athletes. To commemorate his work, the Football Association of Ireland named him the very first Honorary Life President in 2018. Denis O’Brien is also the Chairman of the Council of Patrons for Special Olympics Ireland, which provides training and competitive events for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Denis O’Brien co-founded Front Line Defenders (FLD) in 2001 to help human rights defenders carry out their work safely. In 2018, FLD won the 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prise. Furthermore, Denis O’Brien carries out this mission as a member of Concern Worldwide’s U.S. Board of Directors, which works to end cycles of poverty, fear and oppression. He has won the Princess Grace Humanitarian Award (2022) and was introduced into the Irish America Hall of Fame at the 2022 Business 100 awards lunch. Additionally, O’Brien was named a Goodwill Ambassador in 2010 and was awarded the National Order of Honour and Merit in 2012 for helping Haiti recover after a severe earthquake. Another testament to his humanitarian work is the Iris O’Brien Foundation, funded by Denis O’Brien and named after his mother.

Lastly, as a proponent of education, he has backed institutions in Ireland and in the United States. At Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University, he has supported their facilities, scholarships and programmes. And at University College Dublin, his alma mater, he bestowed the O’Brien Centre for Science.

More Professional Recognition for Denis O’Brien

To encourage positive change in the overall telecommunications industry from small stakeholders all the way up to big tech, Denis O’Brien is a United Nations Broadband Commissioner for Digital Development and Chairman for the Broadband Commission. His efforts have earned him the Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year Award (1998), the Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Ireland-U.S. Council (2019) and the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Tech Excellence Awards (2015).

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Telecommunications business founder, serial philanthropist and humanitarian activist serving communities in need.


Denis O’Brien

Telecommunications business founder, serial philanthropist and humanitarian activist serving communities in need.