Wednesday 17 January 2018

Chairman ends a 40-year association with company

Peter Flanagan and John Mulligan

UTV usually reports the news but yesterday it made the headlines with one of the biggest boardroom bust-ups seen in Ireland in many years.

The removal of John McGuckian by the board prompted him and two other directors to resign from the board, leading to speculation about a possible bid for the company that sent UTV shares soaring.

John McGuckian had been chairman of UTV since 1990 but has now left a company he had been associated with for some 40 years.

TVC chairman Shane Reihill, who also left yesterday, had been a director since September 2008 and his listed investment firm owns a large stake of UTV.

Kevin Lagan is one of the best-known businessmen in the North as chairman and chief executive of the Lagan Group. In short, these are not the kind of personalities usually seen at the centre of such a high-profile boardroom bust-up.


UTV's statement claimed Mr McGuckian's "close association" with TVC had compromised his independence to such an extent that they no longer considered it appropriate for him to continue as chairman".

It seems no single event triggered yesterday's bust up. Instead, concerns had been building among directors for several months.

The statements from Mr Reihill and the others, in particular the references to the board's actions being "contrary to the UK Corporate Governance Code" would seem to leave the way open for them to take further action although that appears unlikely at this juncture.

TVC's next move will be closely watched.

Its 18pc stake in UTV makes it is the biggest shareholder in the media group -- too big to ignore.

Its investment in UTV has proved a robust one.

That holding now comprises 66pc of TVC's total investment portfolio and was valued at €23m at the end of last September.

The pressure will now be on interim chairman Helen Kirkpatrick, and group chief executive John McCann, who both voted to remove Mr McGuckian, to steer the group through what are suddenly uncertain waters.

Irish Independent

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