AS Independent News & Media (INM) draws closer to a debt-for-equity deal to stabilise its financial woes, the group chief executive Gavin O’Reilly has accused his shareholding nemesis Denis O’Brien of flip-flopping his position with regard to the group’s lifeline.
“He has flip-flopped his position in the past and he may flip-flop again. Who knows?”
The deal in the pipeline would allow ex-chief executive Anthony O’Reilly remain the largest shareholder of the publisher which owns 200 titles around the world.
The company’s second biggest investor, Mr O’Brien, wants the loss-making London-based Independent sold, but the O’Reillys don’t. “It would be inappropriate for me to discuss the actual details as these have to go before the board,” Mr O’Reilly said on RTÉ’s Prime Time.
Denis O’Brien had agreed to take part in the programme, but Mr O’Reilly declined to have both of them face off on the show.
Referring to the recent clash between the camps, he said: “Denis has invested a lot of money in INM and he is entitled to his view.
“It is unfortunate that he has chosen to air his views using megaphone tactics.”
While Mr O’Brien was reported as saying his clash with the O’Reillys was not personal, Mr O’Reilly said “unfortunately his actions would suggest otherwise”.
However, he said Mr O’Brien had the “right to feel angry. I feel the pain as a shareholder as much as he does”. The group was going through a recession and complex re-structuring “and I am not happy with the share price”, he added. The focus must be on “a consensual re-structuring” in order to get “a growth story” going forward.
The heavily indebted media group has been trying for months to refinance an overdue €200 million senior bond in a deal that would involve about €100m to €120m being swapped for a stake in the company. While not discussing the specifics of the plan, what was going before the shareholders was better than anything Denis O’Brien had to offer, Mr O’Reilly said. “We have asked Denis to give us his plan for the future and he has refused to do so.”
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