Tuesday 21 October 2014

INM chairman James Osborne ousted from board of company following vote

Independent.ie reporters and Maeve Dineen

Published 08/06/2012 | 11:43

'Digital growth, and an appropriate level of investment, is a key area of focus for the group,' Mr Crowley told the AGM.
INM Chief Executive, Vincent Crowley
John Bateson, reading a statement on behalf of shareholder Dermot Desmond at the Independent, news and media AGM at the citywest hotel. Pic credit; Damien Eagers 8/6/2012

INDEPENDENT News & Media's (INM) chairman James Osborne has been ousted from the board of the company after majority shareholder Denis O’Brien voted against him.

Businessman Mr O’Brien has 29.9pc of INM shares.

The vote took place at a tetchy INM shareholders meeting at Dublin’s Citywest.

Financier Dermot Desmond, who has a 6.4pc stake in the media company, also voted against Mr Osborne.

Financial controller Donal Buggy was also voted off the board.

Mr O’Brien-backed board member Paul Connolly kept his seat.

Earlier in the day Mr O’Brien called for "urgent, radical re-structuring" at the company.

"I believe it is of the utmost importance for the company, its shareholders, it's employees and its assets, that urgent, radical re-structuring is undertaken immediately,” solicitor Owen O’Connell said in a statement read out on behalf of Mr O'Brien.

"The confidence of the market has been lost and this can only be regained by a convincing and cohesive reconstruction of the company - including its leadership. Lack of leadership has cost the company dearly over many years.”

While calling for change, Mr O’Brien emphasised his support for IMN chief executive Vincent Crowley who replaced Gavin O’Reilly earlier this year.

“The new chief executive Vincent Crowley has my total confidence," Mr O’Brien’s statement added.

The board of INM had called on shareholders not to support Mr Connolly’s re-election to the board following a dispute between Mr Connolly and the board over the size of Mr O’Reilly’s severance package of €1.87m.

Both Mr O’Brien and Mr Desmond supported Mr Connolly.

John Bateson, a spokesman for Dermot Desmond, was particularly critical of Mr O’Reilly’s package.

He rejected chairman James Osborne's recommendation to vote against Mr Connolly's reappointment to the board saying Mr Connolly was not getting involved in "group think" and agreeing to "handsomely reward failure."

Mr Osborne said earlier it was his first and may be his last annual general meeting.

Earlier, a representative of Mr Desmond said that the financier was voting against the re-election of directors except Paul Connolly.

Mr O'Brien's representative also voted against the re appointment of Mr Osbourne and Mr Buggy.

Mr Osborne added that despite the highly challenging operating conditions, the group’s performance in 2011 was satisfactory.

All of the group’s titles remain profitable, he added.

He thanked Baroness Margaret Jay, Brent Braun and Lothar Lanz who recently retired as directors of INM for their contribution to the board.

Mr Crowley said INM had delivered operating profit of €75.5m and an EBITDA outcome of just over €100m against a difficult backdrop. " A continuing focus on maximising available cash, from a well-invested base, delivered net debt reduction of circa €47m or some 10pc," he said.

He added that he was pleased to report digital revenue growth of 10pc for 2011 while so far this year, digital revenue had risen 17.6pc.

"Digital growth, and an appropriate level of investment, is a key area of focus for the group," Mr Crowley added.

He said the outlook remains unchanged from the outlook released last month where the company said forecasting in the current climate is very difficult while advertising conditions remain challenging and erratic.

"Our focus is on maximising available cash flow for continued debt paydown, which will deliver value for our shareholders. Together with the INM management team, I am very focused on our core strategic and financial objectives which will, in time, return INM to growth and deliver value for all shareholders," Mr Crowley added.

He also confirmed the closure of the company's London office and the head office in Dublin and added that the Sunday World redundancy scheme was fully subscribed.

Mr O'Brien said one of the most disturbing developments at the company is the scale of the pension deficit which is approximately €148m. "I sympathise with all current and future pensioners who have the worry and uncertain future," he added.

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