Wednesday 23 May 2018

Buckley concludes eventful period at helm of INM

Ryan Preston, Triona Mullane, Michael Doorly, Leslie Buckley, Mary Gallagher, Dr Len O’Hagan, and Terry Buckley at the INM EGM
Ryan Preston, Triona Mullane, Michael Doorly, Leslie Buckley, Mary Gallagher, Dr Len O’Hagan, and Terry Buckley at the INM EGM
INM CEO Michael Doorly and chairman Leslie Buckley. Photos: Steve Humphreys

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor

Independent News & Media chairman Leslie Buckley has stepped down from the board, ending a tumultuous period at the helm of the country's biggest media company.

Mr Buckley, who stepped down following an EGM yesterday, took on the chairmanship of the then dangerously-indebted Irish media giant in 2012 after directors linked to former CEO Tony O'Reilly were swept from the board.

Four new non-executive directors - John Bateson, Fionnuala Duggan, Murdoch MacLennan and Seamus Taaffe - were approved by shareholders. The quartet were elected on the strength of votes cast in advance by shareholders.

Mr Bateson is a nominee of Dermot Desmond, who owns 15pc of Independent News & Media chairman (INM), the second-biggest stake. Each of the other three newcomers will serve as independent non-executive directors.

Given the sweeping scale of the changes, those appointments were subject to ratification at yesterday's brief EGM.

Addressing the EGM, Mr Buckley said that while the five-and-half-year period in which he had served as chairman had been challenging one for the company, INM had seen "a significant positive turnaround" in its financial footing due, Mr Buckley said, to "the great efforts of everyone involved in the business".

Mr Buckley thanked shareholders, current board colleagues, recent former board colleagues Jerome Kennedy and David Harrison, CEO Michael Doorly and INM Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae.

Allan Marshall, who was due to step down from the board alongside Mr Buckley, was unable to attend the EGM as he was grounded in London due to Storm Emma. INM director Paul Connolly, who has emerged as a possible contender to replace Leslie Buckley as chairman, was also unable to attend owing to the weather.

In his closing remarks, Mr Buckley paid tribute to INM's journalists whom he said, provided full and fair quality coverage of Irish and international news on a 24/7 basis across a series of iconic titles, including the Irish Independent, as well as online.

Mr Buckley also paid tribute to other titles and journalists who had covered INM's travails in recent times.

"As a high-profile media company that prides itself on good reporting, we must also be cognisant that sometimes we too can become 'the news'," Mr Buckley told the EGM, which included a small group of shareholders who braved the inclement weather to attend.

"To this end, I would like to further acknowledge the coverage of INM by other titles in print and broadcast, over the recent period.

"While I might not have agree with everything, I certainly respect and understand the value of a good exclusive and the questioning that goes with it.

"It certainly hasn't been dull," he added.

Mr Buckley said he was greatly encouraged by findings of an EY report which has recently been finalised after a comprehensive, four-month review of INM's operations and will formally be presented to the board at its next meeting.

"The good news is that it shows a clear pathway to renewed growth for INM in the future and, most importantly, highlights the necessity of reconnecting with the reader.

"I am very optimistic that your company has a very bright future ahead of it."

Mr Buckley's departure follows the exit late last year of former INM CEO Robert Pitt. The two men had been embroiled in a long-running and high-profile dispute that broke-out over a move by INM two years ago to buy radio station Newstalk. The radio station is owned by Denis O'Brien, INM's biggest single shareholder and Mr Buckley's long-time business associate. The fallout from that row continues.

Irish Independent

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