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Denis O'Brien Photo by: Google Images

Denis O’Brien tightens hold on Independent newspapers as chairman fired

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Denis O'Brien Photo by: Google Images

Majority shareholder Denis O’Brien has tightened his grip on Independent Newspapers, Ireland’s largest media chain after ousting two directors, including the chairman from the board of INM.

O’Brien, in conjunction with fellow dissident shareholder Dermot Desmond, used their increased ownership clout to remove members nominated by the family of former CEO Tony O’Reilly.

The board of Independent News & Media (INM) dismissed Chairman James Osborne and Chief financial Officer Donal Buggy, who were voted out of office by shareholders.

The two were relieved of their duties at the company’s AGM on Friday in Dublin. INM Chief Executive Officer Vincent Crowley told the Irish Times that despite the major changes, those left on the board are working as a cohesive unit.

Osborne assumed the role of chairman last fall, and his board had asked shareholders to give all of them another term except for non-executive director Paul Connolly.

Connolly and Osborne were not in agreement over the pay package awarded to former CEO Gavin O’Reilly, who was relieved of his duties in April.

Osborne wanted to award O’Reilly an exit package of some €1.9 million, but Connolly, who has the backing of majority shareholder Denis O’Brien (some 30%), was against this and has started legal proceeding against it.

After the shareholders had their say – led by O’Brien  – Osborne and Buggy were voted out and Connolly was returned to his role.

In a statement released via his lawyer, O’Brien called for the company to take a new direction.

"I believe it is of the utmost importance for the company, its shareholders, its employees and its assets, that urgent, radical restructuring is undertaken immediately,” he said, according to the Irish Independent.

That said, the billionaire is standing firmly behind the board’s new leadership.

“The new chief executive Vincent Crowley has my total confidence," added O’Brien in the statement.

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