Saturday 16 December 2017

INM's Buckley slams O'Reilly as APN sale gets the green light

INM chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley at yesterday’s shareholder meeting.
INM chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley at yesterday’s shareholder meeting.
Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

Independent News & Media chairman Leslie Buckley took aim at former chief executive Gavin O'Reilly yesterday following a shareholder meeting to approve the sale of INM's shareholding in Australian media company APN.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Buckley was critical of Mr O'Reilly who said in a recent newspaper interview that INM resembled the "killing fields" since his departure.

"It was a very regrettable thing for Gavin O'Reilly to say. When Gavin O'Reilly left the business, the business was on the verge of collapse," the INM chairman said.

He added that INM was "obviously, clearly very badly managed under his leadership." The publisher of this newspaper was on the verge of going "into either examinership or receivership and I think it is incredible for him to make such a statement about killing fields."

INM could have ended up like Waterford Crystal, he added.

The comments came as more than 99pc of shareholders voted in favour of the sale of INM's 18pc stake in APN. The money raised from the sale, first announced last month, will be used to repay all of INM's debts. The remaining €25m will be invested in new operations in the digital sphere, Mr Buckley said.

"The price was good and we decided to get out," he added.

Repayment of debts will save INM "up to €6m" a year in interest payments, chief executive Robert Pitt said. "It's a kind of dividend."

Mr Buckley declined to be more specific about how the spare €25m will be spent but said the company is looking "particularly in the digital area". A partnership with a company in the UK was possible as well as Ireland.

INM will raise a total of €119.8m from the sale of the APN stake.

The clearing of the company's debt is a significant achievement for the publisher which had debts of €420m three years ago.

This debt has been repaid by selling units in South Africa, cutting the company's pension deficit, an issue of ordinary shares and cost cuts.

Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp said it will buy some of INMs stake in Sydney-based APN following the deal.

Denis O'Brien, who is the largest shareholder in INM and also a shareholder in APN, also plans to sell his stake in APN.

Irish Independent

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