Backing for INM calls to oust chief

A second shareholder in Australian media group APN has questioned its management decisions, following calls from Independent News and& Media (INM) for a change in leadership.

Dublin-headquartered INM said on Thursday it is seeking the removal of Brett Chenoweth from APN — in which INM holds a 28.95% stake — as director and CEO.

INM is APN’s biggest shareholder and said it had lost confidence in Mr Chenoweth’s ability “to implement the strategic initiatives necessary to reposition APN for the more challenged media landscape that has emerged in Australasia”.

“Nothwithstanding its market-leading positions, APN has underperformed, as evidenced by a near halving of APN’s interim profits in the period from the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2012,” INM said in a statement.

INM said it has formally advised management at the Sydney-based group of its views and is now seeking an EGM to allow all of APN’s shareholders to air their views “on thisimportant matter”.

While INM’s statement did not refer to it, APN has said that it believes the opposition to Mr Chenoweth arises from the fact that the Australian group is planning a rights issue. The group also maintained that non-INM-affiliated board members support Mr Chenoweth, “and the strategy being implemented under his leadership”.

However, Australian- based fund management company, Allan Gray — which holds a 19% stake in APN — has since said that it is opposed to any rights issue being launched by APN.

Allan Gray managing director, Simon Marais, was quoted as saying “a capital raising would certainly not get our approval at all”.

APN has halted trading in its shares until next Tuesday, citing the need to prevent trading taking place in a “speculative” or “uninformed” market, before it investigates INM’s comments and thinks more about its potential capital raising exercise.

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