Tuesday 21 November 2017

Court hears there was no 'indecent haste' in departure of newspaper CEO

THERE was no "indecent haste" about the departure of former CEO Brian Nerney from the Roscommon Herald, the High Court heard today.

Barry Colgan, group human resources manager of Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH), which bought the Herald from Mr Nerney in 2004 for more than €10m, also said he was sorry if Mr Nerney was put out or upset on being made redundant in July last year but it was the right thing to do for the business.

The court was also told that Mr Nerney - who was kept on as CEO after TCH bought out his sole shareholding in the Roscommon Herald Ltd for €10.3million - had a unique favourable contract of employment and no other regional CEO had such a contract.

It was the third day of the action by Mr Nerney who is claiming he suffered reputational damage after TCH informed him by letter last July that he was being made redundant from his €80,000 job and he was not to re enter the offices of the Herald - where he had worked for 28 years - after that day.

Mr Nerney (47) of Carrick Road, Boyle Co Roscommon is seeking various orders including that TCH by purporting to terminate his employment in July 2012 acted in the breach of his contract of employment. Mr Nerney is also claiming over €500,000 gross in special damages including payment of all contractual entitlements.

TCH says it exercised its statutory entitlement to terminate Mr Nerney's employment on grounds of redundancy and has denied the purported termination was in breach of the contract of employment.

It is further denied that Mr Nerney was caused reputational damage or that he was in effect given six hours to leave the offices of the Herald after the termination of his employment in a letter on July 17, 2012.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy today reserved judgement.

Earlier in his evidence, Mr Colgan, the HR manager, said as part of a substantial cost cutting review at TCH, levels of management were examined across the group.

One of the outcomes of the review, he said, was that Brian Nerney and other people at similar levels were made rendundant or not replaced.

TCH at the height employed 800 people he said and now there were 640 people in the company.

Everyone it the organisation, he said was highly attuned to the fact it was a difficult business.

On July 17, 2012, he said he met Mr Nerney at a hotel in Carrick on Shannon and went through the letter making him redundant and and explained it to him.

Mr Nerney, he said, was unhappy.

"I discussed with Brian Nerney that his job was gone. He was finished.

"I tried to discuss with him about telling the staff. I wanted it to be done in a way that was least damaging and harmful to him .

" He said it was my problem or the company's problem, one of those expressions," Mr Colgan said.

On the claim of reputational damage due to an alleged six hours deadline, Mr Colgan said that issue did not arise and nobody had suggested there was a shadow over the departure of Mr Nerney from the company.

Chief executive of TCH regional newspapers Dan Linehan, said Brian Nerney was aware of the situation and that TCH was implementing cost cutting. There were redundancies including the CEOs of other regional titles except in the South East where one CEO took over the running of two regional newspapers and four offices.

TCH he said restructured and streamlined with some positions made redundant and others not replaced.

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