Newspaper CEO claims he was removed from office within six hours of employment being terminated
THE former CEO of a provincial newspaper claims he was only given six hours to remove his property from his office after his employment was terminated last year.
Brian Nerney is claiming he suffered reputational damage after Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) informed him by letter that he was being made redundant from his €80,000 a year job and he was not to re enter the offices of the Roscommon Herald - where he had worked for 28 years - after that day.
"The Roscommon Herald was my life," he told the High Court on the opening day of his action over his dismissal.
"Even after I sold the company to TCH, I ran it as if it was my own business.
"I have gone in to the offices seven days week for the last 28 years. How was I going to tell my family and the people I had worked with all my life", he told Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.
Mr Nerney (49) of Carrick Road, Boyle, Co Roscommon, has brought the action against TCH, owners of the Irish Examiner, the Sunday Business Post and other titles, over the termination of his employment last year.
He is seeking various orders including that TCH, by purporting to terminate his employment in July 2012, acted in the breach of his contract of employment.
He is also claiming over €500,000 gross in special damages including payment of all contractual entitlements.
The Nerney family had sole control of the Roscommon Herald before it was acquired by TCH in 2004 under a share sale agreement where Mr Nerney sold his shareholding in the paper to the media group.
The Court heard that due to the nature of the transaction, Competition Authority clearance was required in order to complete the sale and completion did not occur until June 18, 2004.
It is claimed Mr Nerney entered into an executive contract with TCH to stay on as CEO with an initial gross annual salary of €75,000, a €12,000 car allowance, pension entitlements and an annual bonus.
Under the terms of employment it is claimed Mr Nerney was employed for four years which would continue for periods of four years unless the company served a notice not to renew the term.
This notice, it is claimed, had to be served on Mr Nerney at least six months before the expiration of any four year period.
It is claimed that the company did not serve a notice of intention not to renew Mr Nerney's term in the six month "window of oppoertunity"
under the terms of the executive contract and Mr Nerney claims it can now only be terminated in 2016.
It is further claimed Mr Nerney received a letter on July 17, 2012, that his position was being made redundant with immediate effect and that from July 18 he must not attend the offices of the Roscommon Herald newspaper.
It is further claimed he was denied the opportunity to speak to staff to explain what happened and the speed with which he was ordered to remove himself from the newspaper offices caused him grave reputational damage.
TCH says it exercised its statutory entitlement to terminate Mr Nerney's employment on grounds of redundancy and it is denied the purported termination was in breach of the contract of employment.
It denies Mr Nerney was caused reputational damage and that he was in effect given six hours to leave the offices of the Roscommon Herald.
Opening the case Mr Nerney's counsel, Patrick O'Reilly SC said in the letter of July 17, 2012, Mr Nerney was told no alternative position had been identified for him and his redundancy was unavoidable and regrettable.
Because of his status as the landlord of the Roscommon Herald he would not be required to work out his notice period. Mr Nerney he said was effectively given six hours to remove all his property and the "
pressure for undue haste" was damaging to him and unnecessary.
The case continues.