Wednesday 12 December 2018

'It certainly hasn't been dull!' - INM Chairman Leslie Buckley steps down

Outgoing chairman Leslie Buckley pictured at the Independent News and Media EGM at the Alex Hotel.
Photo: Steve Humphreys
Outgoing chairman Leslie Buckley pictured at the Independent News and Media EGM at the Alex Hotel. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor

THE Chairman of Independent News & Media (INM) 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 this morning, 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 today approved by shareholders.

Mr Bateson is a nominee of Dermot Desmond, who owns 15pc of 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 this morning's EGM.

Addressing the EGM, Mr Buckley said that whilst 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".

CEO Michael Doorly and outgoing chairman Leslie Buckley pictured at the Independent News and Media EGM at the Alex Hotel.
Photo: Steve Humphreys
CEO Michael Doorly and outgoing chairman Leslie Buckley pictured at the Independent News and Media EGM at the Alex Hotel. Photo: Steve Humphreys

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.

Mr Buckley also paid tribute to journalists within the company and outside of the country's largest media group for covering 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!"

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 chief executive 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.

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