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Tycoon O'Brien loses his libel case and faces legal bill of up to €1m


Businessman Denis O’Brien at court for the hearing this week

Businessman Denis O’Brien at court for the hearing this week


Businessman Denis O’Brien at court for the hearing this week

Billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien lost his High Court action alleging he was defamed in articles in the Sunday Business Post.

The jury, by a majority, dismissed the case yesterday afternoon.

Mr O'Brien, who attended each of the 17 days of the case, was not in court for the verdict. He could face a €1m legal bill.

After five hours of deliberations, the foreman told the judge they could not reach a unanimous decision on all the questions before them.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton told them a majority decision was open to them.

The jury resumed considering their verdict and returned to the courtroom just after 4pm.

Mr O'Brien sued Post Publications over articles in March 2015 in which he was named as among the 22 biggest borrowers from Irish banks in 2008.

Their focus was a confidential PricewaterhouseCoopers report given to the Government in November 2008 which looked at the exposure of Ireland's banks.


Journalist Tom Lyons got a copy of the report from a source in early 2015 and shredded it after the articles appeared, to protect the source.

Mr O'Brien claimed the articles, including some headlined "22 men and €26 billion" and "The Gang of 22" wrongly meant he was among a "gang" of 22 borrowers responsible for the destruction of the Irish banking system, defaming him and injuring his reputation.

He also alleged malicious publication and sought punitive damages.

The defendant denied the words meant what he alleged, denied defamation and malicious publication and pleaded "fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest".

The jury found the articles did not mean that Mr O'Brien, as one of 22 borrowers, was among those borrowers most to blame for the destruction of the Irish banking system and the subsequent bail-out and was not a recipient of cheap and easy money in some way related to improper influence with bankers, politicians and civil servants.

They also found the articles did not mean that, as a result of what was said about Mr O'Brien's borrowings, the PwC report was one which he wished to keep secret or top secret and had been suppressed.

They found the articles meant the story of Mr O'Brien's borrowings and the amount was telling and disturbing but that they were not defamatory.

The other questions asked whether the articles meant Mr O'Brien was "massively overstretched" and "faced huge financial pressure" in November 2008.

The jury found they did, but that was not defamatory.

Mr Justice Barton said the case was dismissed with an order for costs against Mr O'Brien which could run to €1m.