Lawyer among INM 19 led defence against O’Brien firm’s legal battle

Nick Cooper whose name was searched after alleged data breach saw off Digicel court case

Denis O’Brien: took control of INM after a six-year battle with Sir Anthony O’Reilly, becoming the company’s largest shareholder with a 29.9 per cent stake. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Denis O’Brien: took control of INM after a six-year battle with Sir Anthony O’Reilly, becoming the company’s largest shareholder with a 29.9 per cent stake. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The UK lawyer whose name was searched in a suspected data breach at Independent News & Media (INM) led the defence of a major legal action taken by businessman Denis O’Brien’s company Digicel.

Nick Cooper was the general counsel and a board director of the telecoms company Cable & Wireless when it saw off a three-year court challenge from Digicel that left Mr O’Brien nursing an estimated legal bill of €30 million following a 77-day trial in London in 2010.

Digicel accused Cable & Wireless of impeding its entry into the Caribbean telecoms market but was roundly beaten in the court battle. A British High Court judge rejected all but one of its claims and awarded damages of just £2 in a breach of contract claim where it found Cable & Wireless at fault.

‘Persons of interest’

In or around the same period, Mr Cooper is understood to have had contact with Gavin O’Reilly at a time when Mr O’Reilly and his father Sir Anthony O’Reilly were embroiled in a battle with Mr O’Brien for control of the INM boardroom.

In 2012, Mr O’Brien took control after a six-year battle with Sir Anthony, becoming the company’s largest shareholder with a 29.9 per cent stake, appointing his own directors to the board and ousting the company’s chairman James Osborne.

Mr Cooper’s name features as one of 19 people named as “persons of interest” discovered by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan in the corporate watchdog’s investigation into the alleged data breach at the country’s largest media company. Efforts to contact Mr Cooper were unsuccessful.

Mr Drennan wants the High Court to appoint inspectors to investigate corporate governance issues at INM. He has alleged that in October 2014 the company’s data was taken from the company’s back-up IT system to a company outside the country.

The media’s company data was subsequently interrogated over subsequent months.

Lucrative market

Mr Drennan reportedly claims the data interrogation was directed by INM’s then chairman Leslie Buckley, a long-time business associate of Mr O’Brien’s, and that invoices totalling €60,000 arising from the work were paid for Blaydon, an Isle of Man company beneficially owned by Mr O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien’s spokesman did not respond to a call or emailed questions about Mr Cooper.

Another name on the list of people searched in the alleged data breach was London-based Irish public relations executive Rory Godson, who represented Cable & Wireless at the time of the court battle with Digicel.

The High Court dismissed Digicel’s claim for conspiracy, breach of statutory duty and damages of more than £300 million (€344 million) against Cable & Wireless in the Caribbean, a lucrative market for Mr O’Brien’s mobile phone operator.

The corporate enforcer is due to apply to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors to Independent News & Media on April 16th.