Leslie Buckley retires from Digicel board

Denis O’Brien associate was founding director of telecoms group

Leslie Buckley will remain on as a senior adviser and president emeritus of Digicel. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Leslie Buckley will remain on as a senior adviser and president emeritus of Digicel. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Businessman Leslie Buckley will retire on Thursday as vice-chairman of Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group, less than four months after the telecoms group secured a $1.6 billion (€1.36 billion) debt write-off from creditors.

Mr Buckley, a long-time associate of Mr O’Brien and founding director of Digicel in 2001, told the board that he will “will now focus his time on his various business and family interests in Ireland” as he turns 76 later this year, the company said in a statement. He will remain on as a senior adviser and president emeritus of Digicel, it said.

Mr Buckley previously was a shareholder in the group but is understood to no longer hold any stock. Mr O’Brien owns 99.9 per cent of the business.

“As a founding director of the group, Leslie has been one of the driving forces behind our success, since we launched Digicel in 2001,” Mr O’Brien said. “His enormous breadth of expertise, laser focused attention to detail and deep understanding of the very diverse dynamics across the range of our markets proved invaluable and was pivotal as we expanded our operations across 31 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific.”

Debt levels

Digicel moved immediately after its financial year-end in March to restructure its then unsustainably high debt level of $7 billion following years of earnings decline, which led it to conclude a deal in June that saw bondholders write off $1.6 billion of what they are owed.

The transaction involved the creditors swapping their bonds for securities of a lesser value and has been described by credit ratings agencies as a “distressed debt exchange”.

Digicel spent $6 billion developing its networks over almost two decades across its markets. Mr O’Brien took at least $1.9 billion of disclosed dividends out of the group between 2007 and 2015.