A claim in court by a former employee of Thomas Crosbie Holdings Ltd (TCH) that the newspaper group was in “a perilous financial position” was challenged in the High Court by the company yesterday.
The claim was made by the former chief executive of the TCH-owned Roscommon Herald, Brian Nerney, who is seeking an injunction restraining the company from dismissing him, and reinstating him in the event of the court deciding that he had been made redundant.
His statement was challenged before Mr Justice Michael Peart by TCH’s barrister, Eoin Clifford, who said that the position described was not accepted by the company.
Mr Clifford said the situation had been addressed in an affidavit of group HR manager Barry Colgan, who said TCH was in ongoing dialogue with its bankers in relation to its banking facilities.
The group continued to enjoy the support of its bankers and shareholders, he said.
It owns a stable of well-known brands including the Irish Examiner and Sunday Business Post and employs about 600 people.
The reference to the company’s financial position was made by Mr Nerney’s barrister, Patrick O’Reilly, who said TCH had conceded in correspondence that it was in severe financial difficulty. This had a bearing on reaching any agreement on adjourning his application to an early full hearing, he said.
He told Judge Peart that the company’s actions were in breach of Mr Nerney’s contract of employment.
He had been 27 years with the Roscommon Herald. which his parents had owned until he had taken over in 1994. He had sold the newspaper to TCH in 2004 and had remained on as CEO.
Mr Nerney said he had been told in June last that TCH was considering making his position redundant. He had been receiving an already reduced annual salary of €80,590 with a €12,000 annual car allowance with TCH paying a pension contribution of 7.5 % his salary.
By Jul 17 he had received a letter stating his position was being made redundant and told not to attend the offices of the Roscommon Herald from the following day — in effect being given six hours to leave his office.
Asking him to leave at short notice pointed a finger of suspicion at him, claimed Mr Nerney. Word of his removal had spread throughout the county and he believed people thought he had committed some offence that necessitated his removal.
Barry Colgan said TCH had been reviewing its operations to achieve cost efficiencies. The group had made 54 people redundant since 2011 and Mr Nerney himself had been involved in implementing cost-cutting measures, including making people redundant.
Judge Peart will continue the hearing of Mr Nerney’s application today.
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