Media and communications mogul Denis O’Brien is now officially Ireland’s wealthiest man with a fortune of $6 billion.
The Digicel boss, known for his extraordinary philanthropy as well as his wealth, tops the individual wealth list in the latest Sunday Times rich list.
O’Brien has made his fortune by providing cell phone service across continents and a vast media empire that includes radio stations and properties such as the Irish Independent group.
He is a huge benefactor for charities and his role in restoring Haiti after the 2010 earthquake was featured recently on the front page in The New York Times. His company has helped build over 130 schools there.
He is considered close to the Clinton family and is a key contributor to the Clinton Global Initiative.
Cork-born O’Brien, 56, is now worth over $6 billion according to the annual report in the respected newspaper, up close to a $1 billion over last year.
The paper reports that O’Brien is the richest individual on the list as Ireland’s wealthiest 250 people saw their wealth rise 12 per cent to $80billion in the past year.
The Sunday Times says the scale of their fortune is now so large that it is equivalent to 35 per cent of Ireland’s gross domestic product.
The growth in wealth is indicative, it says, that the economy is on an upward path.
The entry level to the list is $63 million, up $5.5 million on the previous year and the biggest rise since 2007.
The survey says the top nine places in the survey are held by euro denominated billionaires who account for just under $33 billion of the total.
Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison, both in their early 20s are among the biggest winners on this year’s list thanks to their Silicon Valley-based Stripe, an online payments company that is being tipped as a rival to PayPal.
The twenty-somethings have increased their joint fortune from $80 million to $640million in just one year after successful fund-raising which valued their business at $1.8 billion.
Athlone-based biotech entrepreneur Seamus Mulligan, 53, is another winner after his stake in Jazz Pharmaceuticals leapt in value in 12 months to over $500 million.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has increased his fortune by 41% and he is now worth $830 million, ensuring he breaks into the top 20 for the first time, at number 16.
The Rich List report says that actor Liam Neeson, who enjoyed huge success with The Lego Movie, now has accumulated wealth of $130 million.
Hilary Weston and her family top the list for the sixth year with a fortune worth $12 billion thanks to the performance of their food and clothing conglomerate which includes Brown Thomas, Penneys and Primark.
U2 dropped to 19th position on The Sunday Times Irish Rich List after manager Paul McGuinness sold his interest in the band’s management company Principle.