Ex-INM exec in court over dismissal
A FORMER executive of Independent News & Media (INM) is seeking a High Court declaration that a decision to dismiss him from his €300,000-per-annum post was unlawful.
Karl Brophy, who was appointed director of corporate affairs and content development in 2010 by former INM chief executive Gavin O'Reilly, is now seeking damages over the decision and claims the company's largest shareholder, Denis O'Brien, was behind his ousting.
He says the decision to dismiss him was taken firstly on spurious grounds of alleged misconduct and then redundancy without regard to his contractual entitlement of two years' severance.
Last May, he sought a High Court order to prevent his dismissal and while this was not granted, the court did give an injunction restraining INM from acting further on its decision to terminate his employment pending further hearing and also preventing it from divulging confidential information to the media in relation to his employment.
INM denied it did anything unlawful and said he was made redundant as part of a decision to restructure its business and reduce costs.
Yesterday, the full hearing of his action against INM began before Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.
Opening the case, Oisin Quinn, senior counsel for Mr Brophy, said his client was now seeking a declaration that the decision of April 26 to terminate his employment was unlawful and he was also seeking an award of damages.
On April 19, Mr O'Reilly stood down and the new CEO, Vincent Crowley, told Mr Brophy that another PR consultant would handle the press release in relation to that because he [Mr Brophy] had worked with Mr O'Reilly and it might be difficult for him to do that particular job, the court heard.
The impression Mr Brophy got was that this was a temporary situation.
On April 26, the board decided to terminate Mr Brophy's employment and a day later Mr Crowley told him his continued employment would be problematic because of recent coverage in Independent titles concerning Mr O'Brien and in particular over his [Mr O'Brien's] appearance alongside the Taoiseach in New York at the ringing of the Stock Exchange bell.
Mr Brophy said he had no role in this coverage but was never given an opportunity to deal with it, counsel said.
Mr Crowley also said that he had not done enough to "re-cast the digital offerings [online paper] of INM", although Mr Brophy said he had been somewhat frustrated within the company in his efforts to do so, counsel said.
Mr Brophy told the court that Mr O'Reilly sought him out to work as an executive for INM because he [Mr O'Reilly] wanted someone with editorial experience on the existing executive team.
Mr Brophy said he wrote an article in 1998, when working for the 'Irish Mirror', about Denis O'Brien and which ultimately resulted in a successful libel action by Mr O'Brien.
He sought assurances from Mr O'Reilly, as part of taking up the new job at INM, that if Mr O'Brien took over the company, he would "not be the first up against the wall with a blindfold on, which is what actually happened".
The hearing continues.