High Court rejects bid to stop INM executive's dismissal
AN executive with Independent News and Media plc (INM) claims the company's major shareholder Denis O'Brien was behind an allegedly unlawful attempt to oust him.
Karl Brophy, director of corporate affairs and content development at INM, yesterday sought a High Court order to prevent his dismissal. This was refused, but an injunction was granted restraining INM from acting further on its decision of May 8 to terminate his employment until a further hearing on Tuesday when Independent News and Media will present evidence.
He also got an order restraining the company from releasing, disseminating or divulging any confidential information in relation to his employment and its termination.
Oisin Quinn, counsel for Mr Brophy, told Mr Justice Daniel Herbert his client had been "put in a position where the largest shareholder is trying to oust him and to rub salt into the wounds".
Counsel said he was appointed in January 2011, having been "head-hunted" by former INM CEO Gavin O'Reilly.
Following the departure of Mr O'Reilly last month, and after Mr O'Brien had become the major shareholder, the new CEO Vincent Crowley met with Mr Brophy on April 27 and told him "there was a new regime in place and his employment was to be terminated".
"Mr Crowley said he was seen as being too close to Gavin O'Reilly and his continued employment would be seen as problematic by some directors and shareholders," counsel said.
He was also told that the recent coverage in Independent group newspapers of Denis O'Brien, and his taking control of INM, had gone "a bit too far".
Mr Crowley also said he had not done enough to "recast the digital offerings" of INM although he (Mr Crowley) accepted this had been a difficult task.
In an affidavit, Mr Brophy said the draconian manner in which INM sought to dismiss him was calculated to try and damage him. He also claimed there had been a concerted effort to brief journalists with false and damaging information about him and his employment.
As well as being unlawful, it was "vindictively motivated by the new regime which is essentially persons acting through the defendant (INM) but according to the wishes of the defendant's major shareholder Denis O'Brien".