Ireland’s Eir now under control of Xavier Niel investment firm

Ireland’s Eir now under control of Xavier Niel investment firm

Xavier Niel’s personal investment company has officially taken control of Ireland’s incumbent operator Eir.

Niel controls France’s Iliad group, which owns the Free fixed and mobile operator, but the deal has been completed via NJJ, his private investment firm, whose investments include Monaco Telecom and Switzerland’s Salt Telecom.

At the same time Carolan Lennon, former head of Eir’s wholesale operation, has taken over as group CEO, and Niel’s group has installed a new board of directors.

David McRedmond, non-executive chairman, said: “The company will benefit greatly from having such a high calibre board of directors with strong Irish roots, a deep understanding of the Irish rural and urban landscape, specific knowledge of the company and extensive telecommunications expertise. The board will work closely with the management team to ensure the future success of the company.”

The new board includes Niel as well as previous CEO Richard Moat, but excludes Lennon and the new CFO, Stephen Tighe, who was finance director of Eir’s consumer division.

Former Vodafone executive Lennon said: “I will work with a new senior management team, all of whom have been appointed from within Eir and who have substantial industry knowledge and market experience. The new management team reflects the importance of talent development and embraces gender diversity, themes that are extremely important to me.”

This is just the latest of several changes of ownership for Eir, which was privatised – as Eircom – at the height of the dotcom bubble in 1999, and then acquired and delisted only two years later.

Its shares were floated again in 2004, but in 2006 Australian investment group Babcock and Brown bought it for €2.4 billion and its shares were delisted again. Babcock and Brown then collapsed and Singapore’s ST Telemedia bought Eircom.

But the company went into the Irish equivalent of bankruptcy reconstruction in 2012, with ST Telemedia losing its investment. The company was restructured later in the year, though a later move to list its shares failed to find support.

Lennon said: “I am confident that we can, together with the board, build the best fixed and mobile network in Ireland, offer the highest quality products and deliver a first-rate customer care service for the Irish people.”

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