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Paddy Cosgrave denies his position as Web Summit CEO was ‘untenable’

Co-founder stepped down last October after concluding this was in the company’s best interests, court told

Paddy Cosgrave denies his resignation as chief executive of Web Summit came in circumstances where his position had become “untenable”, the High Court has heard.

The co-founder’s lawyers told the court he stepped down last October after concluding this was in the best interests of the technology events company.

It is admitted that this move was directly connected to tweets he made about the Israel-Hamas conflict earlier that month, which had consequences for the business, said Bernard Dunleavy, senior counsel for Mr Cosgrave and Web Summit’s holding company.

The submissions came in response to contested applications from Web Summit co-founders Daire Hickey and David Kelly seeking further disclosure of documents in their separate cases against the firm and Mr Cosgrave alleging oppression of their rights as minority shareholders.


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

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

The two minority shareholders want the court to order Web Summit and Mr Cosgrave, an 81 per cent shareholder, to release documents related to the alleged fallout from his posts, including internal reactions to those who pulled out from the event.

They are also seeking records concerning Web Summit’s funding of the Ditch media organisation and its decision to cease funding it after Mr Cosgrave’s resignation. They allege posts by the Ditch concerning Israel were “directly prejudicial” to Web Summit.

Ms Justice Eileen Roberts reserved her decision on the applications.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kelley Smith SC, for Mr Hickey, said the respondents, Web Summit and Mr Cosgrave, had made admissions only on matters that were already in the public domain that “in truth, could not but be admitted”.

“We do not know the damage caused and, obviously, if you do not know that, you cannot look at what is our loss as a minority shareholder,” she said.

Barrister Frank Kennedy, for Mr Kelly, said the documents sought by his client were “relevant”, “necessary” and “clearly” go to the alleged loss and company valuation.

Responding to the motions, Mr Dunleavy disagreed with much of Ms Smith’s characterisation of what was admitted by his clients and disputed the relevance of the documents sought.

He said the shareholders must establish their interests as members of the company were negatively affected. The applicants were seeking “discovery in breadth rather than discovery in focus”, he said, urging the court to deny the requests.

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

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter