Friday 17 January 2020

Disclosure by INM ceo leads to inquiry by ODCE

INM ceo Robert Pitt and INM chairman Leslie Buckley
INM ceo Robert Pitt and INM chairman Leslie Buckley

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor

INM chief executive Robert Pitt made a complaint under new whistleblowing legislation to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), prompting the company law watchdog to seek records in relation to the possible acquisition by INM of radio station Newstalk.

It is understood the complaint - made under the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 - was made late last year, around the time INM issued a statement to the stock exchange confirming that an "issue" had arisen between Mr Pitt and INM chairman Leslie Buckley over the proposed acquisition of Newstalk.

Businessman Denis O'Brien is the largest single shareholder in INM - which publishes newspapers including the Irish Independent - and is the owner of the Communicorp Group, whose assets include Newstalk.

In the statement - issued on November 28, 2016 - INM confirmed that an issue arose between its chief executive and chairman in relation to the terms of a possible acquisition by the company.

Yesterday, publishing its full-year results for 2016, INM confirmed that it was complying with a requirement from the ODCE to produce records in relation to the company's possible acquisition of Newstalk and related matters that were the subject of an announcement from the company on November 28, 2016.

The ODCE says it does not comment on individual cases.

Mr Pitt declined to comment on the ODCE request beyond a statement issued to the stock exchange yesterday morning by INM. INM also declined to confirm whether the ODCE inquiry was prompted by Mr Pitt's disclosure.

"The Company does not intend to comment further regarding the ODCE's request and the independent review," it said in a statement issued yesterday afternoon.

In yesterday's statement to the stock exchange, INM said it established, in December 2016 - before being contacted by the ODCE - a formal independent review to examine and inquire into matters concerning the possible acquisition of Newstalk and related matters.

"Discussions on the possible acquisition ended at a preliminary stage and the acquisition was never considered by the Board," said INM in a statement accompanying its full year results.

Read more: INM still targeting digital acquisitions in evolution

"The confidential, independent review is being carried out on behalf of the Board by senior counsel and a senior independent governance expert who have been mandated to report to the Board.

"The Company takes its corporate governance responsibilities very seriously, and seeks to comply at all times with all relevant laws and regulations. The Company does not intend to comment further regarding the ODCE's request and the independent review.

"There were no further events since the year end that would require disclosure or adjustment in the financial statements."

Under the PDA, an employee may make a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker, tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings and came to the attention of the worker in connection with the worker's employment.

INM reported profit before tax growth of almost 12pc to €41.8m. It also reported total revenue of €323.4m, up 0.7pc on the previous year. INM's shares closed up 9.1pc to 12c yesterday evening.

Irish Independent

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