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In which Denis gets agitated about Siteserv cynics.

D E N I S   O ‘  B R I E N


Dear Dermot,

Bloody Catherine Murphy – on and on about Siteserv. Bought it for €45.4m from IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, while Siteserv owed Anglo €150m. Arthur Cox represented both sides of the sale. Perfectly fine. Chinese Walls. Top firm. Good people. We had to buy it sight unseen remember. That’s what people forget. No due diligence. Risk takers.

The sale involved IBRC writing off €100m of Siteserv’s debt, and the distribution of €5m to Siteserv’s shareholders, instead of as part of the debt writedown. Clever. Easier too when Cox was representing me and Siteserv’s shareholders.

At the time of the sale, the Sunday Business Post reported that Australian hedge fund Anchorage Capital had offered a higher price for the company. I mean, like, so what? Nothing like the second mobile licence situation. Nothing like it. French company Altrad too claimed it was denied the opportunity to make an offer for Siteserv – saying it had been prepared to offer €60m for the firm but that it was “effectively denied the opportunity because its representative was told the Irish group was not for sale”.

The lads at Siteserv shoved out a statement dealing with it just fine: “Neither Siteserv’s board or its advisors ever received any formal approach or offer from Altrad prior to accepting the [O’Brien] offer”. Very Morrissey. Note it doesn’t deny Altrad was told it wasn’t even for sale. Brilliant. One against the head! Sean Corkery, ex-Esat, now head of Siteserv, top boy (my boy) told RTE: “I’m getting a little bit fed up of the constant questioning from Catherine Murphy in the sense that it’s the same question, I think she knows what the answer is in that it is that everything was completely above board and I’m trying to run a company I’m the CEO of that company”. Proper order. Cross sounding too.

A few weeks ago, in another reply to the bloody woman, Noonan revealed that there were concerns raised about our Siteserv deal: “Through this review, Department of Finance raised concerns with the quality of some of the decisions, that legal advisors to the company referred to in the question had also acted for the purchaser, that a payment had been paid to the shareholders of the company referred to in the question, that some of those shareholders were members of the Board of the company referred to in the question and that a significant proportion of those shareholders appeared to be clients of the financial advisor on the transaction to the company referred to in the question”.

In a later reply Noonan stated “it was agreed that my department would review this transaction to better understand the decisions taken by IBRC.… It was decided a senior department of finance official would be seconded to IBRC to explore opportunities for deleveraging with a view to maximising the recovery for the taxpayer. This had the additional benefit of providing greater oversight while supporting the management team”.

In a reply on February 26 last Noonan confirmed to Ms SIPTU-head that the bank would consult with the minister in relation to “any transaction which resulted in an adverse impact on total regulatory capital of the bank of greater than €100m would require interaction between the minister and the IBRC”.

But was that enough for Murphy?  She then asked, if that was the protocol, why wasn’t Minister Noonan involved in discussions with IBRC, regarding the Siteserv sale.

In a reply, Minister Noonan stated that the protocol only came into effect on March 29, 2012 – 14 days after the Siteserv sale was completed. Nothing to see here.

In late March the High Court (ring of steel) addressed the legality of the funding scheme for the Begrudgers United case against the award of that second mobile-phone licence to us. Losers ( I use the term advisedly) Persona want ‘Harbour Litigation Funding’ to fund their litigation in return for the blood money of a cut. Not that anyone’s intending to bleed of course.

Anyway…back to me.

About to join the advisory board of a new fund, founded by a Russian oligarch, that plans to invest at least $16bn (€14.6bn) in the European telecoms market: LetterOne Technology, a British-registered company founded by the Alfa Group’s Mikhail Fridman, whom Forbes says is Russia’s second-richest man, with a $15bn fortune. Alpha. Richest Man. Forbes.  I was in before you could say due diligence. Could be a good vehicle to take a punt on Eircom, whose lender-backers last year pulled a planned flotation. I want Eircom. I can show up O’Reilly,  again. I would have the utmost of sympathy for him and that is genuine. People say how could you have sympathy for him after the boardroom battle? I totally do because I can relate to difficulties. Everyone has this false impression that everything in business is a staircase you know, always going up. It is never like that.

Beefed up board of Beacon hospital, whose chair is Colm Doherty former AIB CEO. Cowen. Former James’s Hospital CEO Brian Fitzgerald and former group financial controller of Kingspan, Darragh Kavanagh.

Enjoyed Man U/Spurs sitting next to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.  I like Alex.  I like sitting next to Alex.  I call him Alex and we watch football together.

Little enough from you, meanwhile. Of course there’s that bloody  diamond mine  but it’s scarcely premier league.

Your IIU has engaged posh lawyers advisers in London to fight a multimillion-dollar legal battle over your investment in a brawl against Canouan Resorts Development, the company behind the ultra-luxury Pink Sands development on Canouan island in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Canouan is the vehicle of banker Antonio Saladino, having secured a 99-year lease to develop an international resort on the 13sq km island in 1990. You bought into the $120m project on a 50:50 basis in 2010. Canouan is a little west of Barbados, where you’re a big investor in the Sandy Lane resort alongside big-balls JP McManus and John Magnier. Last year Forbes magazine described you testing 29 different salt and pepper grinders before choosing the best one for Pink Sands. Class. I’m much the same – only with choosing which charities I found, not salt cellars.

Couldn’t believe the result from Twickenham. Ireland back. Like Siteserv.


(March 2015)