Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Brien aide 'bullied' INM executive, say documents

Court hears of text exchange between Morrissey and Brophy

SUNDAY INDEPENDENT COURT REPORTER

Businessman Denis O'Brien's spokesman James Morrissey was accused of "bullying" and "threatening" Karl Brophy, a senior Independent News and Media executive and aide of former CEO Gavin O'Reilly, it has emerged.



In legal documents presented to the High Court last Friday, when Mr Brophy applied for an injunction against the company that tried to fire him last month, Mr Brophy claimed that he was sent a series of extraordinary texts by Mr Morrissey on April 6 last.

The court was told that at 9.56pm on that night, James Morrissey texted Mr Brophy, accusing him of telling an untruth.

"Karl -- if you gave the replying letter they would see you were telling an untruth . . . what's new? Action replay of your time in South Africa and your hurried exit? James."

Mr Brophy replied: "James yet again you absolutely baffle me. Should I know what you are referring to? I'm senior management in INM and you represent a shareholder. Therefore I think it's very unwise for you to attempt to bully me through text messages."

At 10.01, Mr Morrissey text: "Karl, the truth comes hard to you . . . when you stop telling lies about me I will stop telling the truth about you."

At 10.06, Mr Brophy replied: "James I am finding your text messages increasingly bizarre and threatening. I do think you should take the advice in my previous text. Again happy Easter, Karl."

At 10.09, Mr Morrissey text: "No threat at all . . . just the truth which comes very hard for you!"

Reply from Karl Brophy at 10.18: "It may come as a crushing disappointment to you James, but I still haven't a clue what you are going on about. And you are still ignoring my advice. It really isn't appropriate for you, as a representative of a shareholder, to be contacting me in this manner. Hope you are somewhere nice for Easter Karl."

Text from James Morrissey at 10.24: "And you . . . but please forward the relevant text to your father, Happy Easter!"

Reply from Karl at 10.30: "I won't James. I don't mix business with the personal or the family. If you need to contact Michael (his father) he is not very hard to find. His number is in the media contacts directory. Best, Karl."

Text from James Morrissey at 10.38: "Ok. Understand this is very embarrassing for you."

Mr Brophy was asked in late 2010 to become a director of corporate affairs and content development and wanted a salary of €350,000, but Mr O'Reilly said he could "only stretch to €300,000" plus a company car or an allowance of €20,000.

Mr Brophy worked previously for INM from 2001 to 2007 and left a senior post with PR consultancy Hume Brophy, where he was a partner, to rejoin INM on January 31, 2011.

The documents laid before the High Court also reveal the extensive legal correspondence between Mr Brophy's lawyers and INM's lawyer over the manner in which his intended removal was leaked to various news organisations.

Included in legal documents supplied to the High Court last Friday was a letter from Mr O'Brien to the then INM chairman Brian Hillery on July 21 last year.

In the letter, Mr O'Brien demanded that a new chairman and chief executive be appointed.

"In my view, Vincent Crowley would be an ideal replacement for our CEO," Mr O'Brien added.

"Vincent has all the ability and experience required to immediately assume the role."

In October, Mr Hillery stood down and was replaced by James Osborne.

Other documents presented to the court show that Mr Osborne told Mr O'Reilly in March of interactions that he had with various shareholders, including Dermot Desmond and Mr O'Brien and Bank of Ireland, which is a major lender to the company.

Bank of Ireland consented to intended changes to the company's debt arrangements, but insisted that "substantial changes to management were required", legal documents reveal.

Mr Desmond said he admired Sir Anthony O'Reilly but felt that his son Gavin O'Reilly was "useless".

According to documents, Mr O'Brien stated that he would "definitely" vote against the re-election of Mr O'Reilly and other board members at the crunch INM annual general meeting.

Mr O'Brien also said he had "no intention" of making a bid for INM as he had already lost €500m-plus on his investment in the company.

Sunday Independent

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