Web Summit directed to disclose documents requested by minority shareholders

Documents were sought in support of hotly contested claims that post-October 7th tweets by Paddy Cosgrave damaged the business

Web Summit must disclose various documents sought by two minority shareholders in support of their separate claims that the firm has been damaged by social media posts which chief executive Paddy Cosgrave made in the wake of Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel, the High Court has ruled.

Web Summit co-founders Daire Hickey and David Kelly sought further disclosure of records in their separate cases against the firm and co-founder Mr Cosgrave, alleging oppression of their rights as minority shareholders.

Mr Hickey and Mr Kelly, who own 7 per cent and 12 per cent of shares in the company, were permitted last December to add to their separate actions new allegations related to Mr Cosgrave’s social media posts in the aftermath of the Hamas attack.

They claim his conduct at this time constituted oppression and caused “real and substantial damage” to Web Summit.


His posts were followed by significant controversy, with Google, Meta and Intel announcing they were withdrawing from the November 2023 Web Summit conference.

Web Summit, through its holding company Manders Terrace, and Mr Cosgrave deny posts by him and Ditch Media – which was funded by Web Summit before the technology events firm cut ties last November – caused damage or oppression. They also deny claims that shareholder oppression has occurred.

Mr Cosgrave, an 81 per cent shareholder, resigned as chief executive in what he said was in the best interests of the company. He returned to the role last week.

On Friday, Ms Justice Eileen Roberts ordered the Web Summit side to release various documents, including all records evidencing any potential communications from third parties relating to the posts about Israel. The defendants had offered to provide any post-October 7th complaints that referenced the Ditch, she said.

She also ordered the release of records referring to any potential steps taken by Web Summit to mitigate the impact of any alleged damage on the business and reputation caused by the posts.

She said this did not require the sharing of personal or confidential information relating to third-party candidates involved in the recruitment process for replacing Mr Cosgrave as chief executive in 2023.

In ordering the disclosure of records referring to Mr Cosgrave’s resignation as chief executive, Ms Justice Roberts said the reasons for his resignation were “important”. This was in circumstances where the minority shareholders alleged his position became “untenable” and the defendants deny this was so, she said.

“Where the alleged acts of oppression and where loss and damage to the company are hotly in dispute, documents which establish the circumstances of Mr Cosgrave’s resignation as CEO are in my view both relevant and necessary to discover,” she said.

She further directed the release of records referring to the posts’ financial impact on the firm but refused two other requested categories that she said “largely duplicate” what was sought elsewhere.

Mr Kelly sought two further categories, one of which was ordered to an extent and the other of which was refused.

The minority shareholders allege one of Mr Cosgrave’s posts, since deleted, was made on October 7th – the day Hamas killed and kidnapped Israeli citizens – shared a screenshot containing purported statistics illustrating a large Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Palestine conflict in 2008-2023.

In legal papers, Mr Hickey also says the Ditch media website posted a Palestinian flag on social media in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack. He says it went on to call Israel a “racist, supremacist, apartheid state with a fascist government engaged in crimes against humanity”.

These posts were “directly prejudicial” to Web Summit’s business, Mr Hickey claims.

The claims are denied.

The shareholder oppression cases are part of a series of suits and countersuits between the three Web Summit co-founders.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter