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Digicel’s group CEO dies at 47

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Digicel's group chief executive officer has died while on vacation in his native Germany.

The Bermudian-domiciled international telecommunications company revealed that Alex Matuschka Von Greiffenclau died last Thursday at the age of 47.

His death came days after Digicel clinched a massive debt restructuring deal with bondholders after a process in which Mr Von Greiffenclau was a key figure.

“No words can adequately express our sadness at Alex's passing or our gratitude for having worked with him,” Denis O'Brien, Digicel's founder and chairman, said in a note to employees last Friday. “Digicel has lost a committed hard-working and exceptional chief executive.”

Digicel, whose operational headquarters are in Jamaica, offers telecoms services in 31 markets, including Bermuda and many Caribbean islands.

Mr Von Greiffenclau, who joined Digicel as group CEO in February, had been negotiating with bondholders for about four months as the company grappled with its $6.7 billion debt pile.

A deal was announced in the week before Christmas. It involved the majority of holders of $3 billion worth of bonds agreeing to swap their notes for longer-dated securities.

Some 96.6 per cent of holders of $2 billion of bonds due in 2020 agreed to exchange their notes for securities that will be due to be redeemed in 2022.

Meanwhile, 95.4 per cent of those holding Digicel's $1 billion of existing 2022 bonds agreed to swap their holdings for notes that will mature in 2024.

The Financial Times reported this month that there had been “anxiety about a possible default on the $2 billion bond due in 2020” and that Digicel bonds had been trading for 60 or 70 cents on the dollar.

Mr Von Greiffenclau spearheaded an initiative to reduce Digicel's debt to 5.7 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from a ratio of 6.7 times at the end of the group's last financial year in March, the Irish Times reported.

The plan involves boosting earnings by 10 per cent to about $1.1 billion for the current financial year, and generating about $500 million from asset sales.

Digicel executives signalled to analysts in November that as the sale of noncore assets is dragging on, it may not reach the debt ratio target as originally planned at the end of March 2019.

Digicel scrapped plans for an initial public offering of shares in 2015, which could have helped to reduce its debt, on the grounds of market volatility at that time.

Mr O'Brien, an Irish billionaire who has taken over as interim CEO, said of Mr Von Greiffenclau: “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know him on a personal level have lost a dear friend.

“Over the coming days, we will share our thoughts for a suitable commemoration of Alex and his enormous contribution to the transformation of Digicel.”

Interim CEO: Denis O'Brien, Digicel's chairman and founder
Passed away: Alex Matuschka von Greiffenclau, Digicel's group CEO, who died at the age of 47
Sad loss: a view of Digicel's corporate headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica

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Published December 31, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 31, 2018 at 12:01 am)

Digicel’s group CEO dies at 47

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