O’Brien on cusp of control as he ups INM stake again

Telecoms billionaire Denis O’Brien has upped his shareholding in Independent News & Media (INM) to 29.9%, placing him on the cusp of outright control of the business.

Mr O’Brien bought another tranche of 10.6m shares in INM yesterday. It was his second significant share purchase in the company in as many days — following his €9.6m spend on nearly 33 million shares on Thursday.

A shareholding of 30% triggers the need for a full bid for the company. This week’s activity has seen Mr O’Brien invest around a further €12m in the country’s largest media group.

Mr O’Brien has been investing in INM since 2006; with the bulk of his six years as a shareholder littered with battles with management over leadership decisions and board independence. His ultimate victory seemingly came just a fortnight ago, with Gavin O’Reilly standing down as chief executive — a move which ended nearly four decades of O’Reilly family control at Independent Newspapers.

The strengthening of Mr O’Brien’s shareholding comes just weeks before INM’s annual general meeting.

The position of one of Mr O’Brien’s two remaining representatives on the board — Paul Connolly — has seemingly become more precarious in the past week, with Mr Connolly driving the High Court action against the €1.87m pay-off to Mr O’Reilly.

A removal of Mr Connolly from the board would mark the second consecutive year in which a representative of Mr O’Brien was voted off the INM board, following Leslie Buckley’s departure in 2011. It is thought, however, that Mr O’Brien’s additional power should save Mr Connolly’s position.

INM’s share price dipped by over 8% yesterday to close the week at 29c.


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