Tuesday 24 October 2017

Shareholders' fury at Irish Press as de Valera refuses to back down

Eamon de Valera
Eamon de Valera
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

Irish Press boss Eamon de Valera refused to step down or wind up the company as he came under fire from angry shareholders.

The businessman was accused of breaking company law, and of being "pig-headed", evasive and ignoring concerns or suggestions as he presented accounts that were more than a year out of date.

The company made an operating loss of €1.25m for the two years up to December 31 2012, when it had €2m of outstanding loans and €316,000 cash in the bank.

However auditors issued a disclaimer at an annual general meeting in Dublin as they could not confirm the firm had enough cash reserves to continue as a going concern, and they had concerns over the valuation of its head office on Clanwilliam Terrace in Dublin.

"The audit evidence available to us was limited because we were unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support the assumptions made by the directors," Kevin Sheehan, of Deloitte, said.

Less than 10 shareholders - including two proxy voters - attended the heated AGM and EGM in a Dublin hotel.

While Mr de Valera admitted the 2011 and 2012 accounts were delayed, and 2013 one not ready, he maintained operating losses have since reduced.

Documents showed Irish Press plc was still involved with 12 firms, some dormant, and had sold its stake in Tipp FM for €600,000 last year. Investments were also made in its medical marketing firm, M+C, which Mr de Valera claimed was the core business and would be turning a profit by next year.

"The future of the company depends on us developing and successfully implementing plans for M+C group, because that's our future," he told shareholders when asked if directors had considered a wind-down or a possible return to the markets.

The grandson of the Irish Press founder, former Taoiseach and President Eamon de Valera, said he stopped taking a wage or fee in March 2012 when he started to claim his pension instead. Despite angry calls for him to stand down he plans to remain in his role of acting chief executive and executive chairman.

When shareholders in the room voted against a resolution to adopt the accounts, he used his 465,000 shares, plus proxy votes, to pass it.

But he denied using "incorrect procedure" by soliciting proxy votes from a Bridget de Valera for a woman in the meeting.

"I can not believe what I am hearing all morning," said Ann McAllister, who has a small shareholding left by her grandfather.

"I feel I should have been paid money to attend here. I'm disgusted. Eamon de Valera himself would be so upset if he saw what was going on at the moment," she added, comparing it to a children's fairy tale.

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