Businessman Denis O’Brien’s profile has been removed from the website of LetterOne, the UK-based investment group founded by Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, which has been targeted by government sanctions. European Union for his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. .
Mr O’Brien joined the advisory board of the technology arm of Mr Fridman’s investment group in 2015. Their common links include former Vodafone co-founder Julian Horn-Smith, a longtime director of the group Digicel of Mr. O’Brien who is also an adviser to Mr. Fridman, one of the richest men in Russia.
The website link to Mr. O’Brien’s LetterOne advisor profile now leads to a “404” error message. However, a website snapshot taken by internet archive service Wayback Machine shows the Irish businessman’s profile was functioning normally on the evening of Friday, February 25, the day after Mr Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine that led to sanctions against Russia.
Mr O’Brien’s now-deleted profile on LetterOne made extensive reference to his career at Digicel and his philanthropic activities. LetterOne says members of its advisory boards are appointed as part of its corporate governance structure to “challenge the recommendations of the investment team and challenge our assumptions.” Advisors such as Mr. O’Brien effectively advise Mr. Fridman’s company on whether to make deals.
Mr. O’Brien’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on his ties to Mr. Fridman and his intention to maintain his position on the advisory board of LetterOne in light of the sanctions that have targeted its founders. Russians.
LetterOne was set up by Mr Fridman and his business partner Petr Aven in 2013, after their Russian company, Alfa Group, made $13 billion when it sold a stake in oil company TNK-BP to the Russian giant Rosneft. LetterOne’s investments include a stake in Turkish mobile phone company Turkcell, as well as retail chain Holland & Barrett, whose executive chairman is Irish-born former Goldman Sachs investment banker Michael Casey.
Mr. Casey is also a senior partner at LetterOne. According to his most recent Linkedin entries, Mr. Casey has indicated his opposition to the war in Ukraine by publicly liking a number of anti-war posts, including some posts that directly criticize Mr. Putin.
Mr. Fridman gave a press conference in London, where he is based, on Tuesday. He hinted that criticizing the Kremlin could lead to retaliation against his company and staff. He denied having any ability to influence Mr Putin and rejected the sanctions against him, saying he would fight them.
Mr. Fridman and Mr. Avens were both targeted for sanctions on Monday. The EU has alleged that Mr Fridman is an “enabler of Putin’s inner circle”. He dismissed the sanctions premise as “false”.
Mr Fridman, who was born in Ukraine, called the ongoing war a “tragedy”. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of nearly $13 billion.