O’Brien: INM in ‘chronic’ state

DENIS O’BRIEN, the largest shareholder at Independent News and Media (INM), said that the company is in an “extremely chronic financial situation”.

This news comes at the end of an eventful week at the media firm and reports yesterday that INM chairman Brian Hillery plans to step down soon.

Mr O’Brien said the company must make an “immediate” statement to the Stock Exchange on the “pending resignation of Mr Hillery and outline its strategy for the appointment of a new chairman.”

He said INM must appoint a new chairman who will have the “ability, determination and independence” to restore shareholder value as a matter of urgency. Mr O’Brien said that the erosion of shareholder value during Mr Hillery’s tenure has been in excess of €2 billion.

On Friday shareholders dismissed a non-executive director representing Mr O’Brien at the company’s AGM.

Mr O’Brien said the statements of the “outgoing chairman and chief executive at the AGM were delusional in their total denial of the extremely chronic financial situation”.

“The vacancy in the position of chairman presents the company with a real opportunity to appoint a new chairman who will work in the best interests of all shareholders.

“I think it is inappropriate that the outgoing chairman had such a strong involvement and business association with one shareholder for many years. Mr Hillery was not an independent chairman and the company has suffered gravely because of this,” said Mr O’Brien.

A spokesman for INM said he couldn’t comment beyond saying the board is undergoing a “process of renewal.”

Mr O’Brien controls around 22% of the company’s shares while 13% is held by the family of Tony O’Reilly, who ran the company from 1973 until 2009, when he was replaced by his son Gavin.

Mr Hillery, who was re-elected to the board with 99% support at Friday’s AGM, is regarded as independent of the two groups. He has been in his post since 2004.

INM said last night there are no obligations arising for it to make an announcement on chairman Brian Hillery’s position.

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