Monday 23 July 2018

INM CEO Robert Pitt fails to back re-election of Leslie Buckley as chairman at AGM

Mr Buckley:  'Very unfortunate' that leaks have taken place regarding disagreements at board level

Robert Pitt, CEO Independent News and Media, abstains from voting for the re election of IN&M chairman Leslie Buckley during the Independent News & Media AGM in the Westbury hotel. Photo: Frank McGrath
Robert Pitt, CEO Independent News and Media, abstains from voting for the re election of IN&M chairman Leslie Buckley during the Independent News & Media AGM in the Westbury hotel. Photo: Frank McGrath
INM chairman Leslie Buckley pictured with Michael Doorley, Company Secretary, after the Independent News & Media AGM in the Westbury hotel. Photo: Frank McGrath
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Independent News & Media (INM) chief executive Robert Pitt abstained at a show of hands on the re-election of Leslie Buckley as chairman at the annual general meeting of INM.

However, all INM directors up for re-election, including chairman Leslie Buckley, were re-elected at Wednesday morning's agm.

Mr Buckley paid tribute at the beginning of the meeting to former INM chairman James Osborne, who passed away last week.

Chief executive Mr Pitt then spoke about the company's financial performance to shareholders.

Mr Buckley then opened the floor to questions from shareholders.

He said the company has no plans to pay a dividend to shareholders but will review the situation every year.

INM chairman Leslie Buckley pictured with Company Secretary Michael Doorley (left) before the Independent News & Media AGM in the Westbury hotel. Photo: Frank McGrath
INM chairman Leslie Buckley pictured with Company Secretary Michael Doorley (left) before the Independent News & Media AGM in the Westbury hotel. Photo: Frank McGrath

He said the company needs its cash to meet pension obligations and make acquisitions.

Mr Buckley said he has heard "no word" that Denis O'Brien will be taking the company private.

A shareholder asked about the relationship between Leslie Buckley and Robert Pitt.

Mr Pitt made a protected disclosure to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement after a disagreement regarding a proposed acquisition of Newstalk.

Mr Buckley said that if somebody makes a protected disclosure, this needs to be handled in a proper and professional way within a legal framework.

He added that the board is working day and night to get the issue resolved.

Read more: First half profits fall at Independent News & Media

INM senior independent director Jerome Kennedy addressed the meeting, saying there is "nothing untoward or ominous" behind his departure from the board.

He said that his skillset was useful in the financial restructuring of the company over the last five years, but that the next five years will present different challenges.

Mr Buckley said there is a recruitment process in place to replace Jerome Kennedy.

Regarding the abandoned INM plan for the purchase of Celtic Media, Mr Pitt told the meeting that it was a mutual decision between INM and Celtic Media for the deal to be called off.

He said that the process was costly, and, echoing the comments of Mr Buckley, that the regulatory environment is extremely restrictive.

A shareholder told the meeting that the board needs happiness and should consider hiring a clown to be a director to lighten the mood.

Mr Buckley said that he's not miserable.

Chairman Buckley said it's "very unfortunate" that leaks have taken place regarding disagreements at board level. He said that if there is an issue, it should stay within the company.

Mr Buckley said that the board and management team are working "really hard" to try and improve the company's performance.

"I would like to think that at the next agm I can come here and inform you that this company has some significant growth...[and] that we are in a position to do some serious acquisitions," he said.

Earlier today the company announced revenue had fallen 8.4pc year-on-year in the first half of 2017, to €148.1m, amid challenging conditions in the media industry. Pre-tax profit fell 19.5pc to €14.9m.

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