The O’Reilly family has all but surrendered power at Ireland’s Independent Newspaper group to telecoms entrepreneur Denis O’Brien.

Gavin O’Reilly, son of former chairman Tony, resigned as chief executive of Independent News & Media on Thursday in a surprise move.

His resignation brings an end to 39 years of direct control of Ireland’s largest media group by the O’Reilly family.

It also diffuses any potential embarrassment at the company’s June AGM when majority shareholder O’Brien was expected to call for his resignation.

O’Reilly is to be succeeded by IN&M chief operating officer Vincent Crowley.

The move was reached according to reports in the Irish Times after a ‘compromise agreement’ was approved unanimously by the IN&M board which includes O’Brien’s representatives Paul Connolly and Lucy Gaffney.

A statement from Gavin O’Reilly said: “After 19 eventful years with the company, it is time for me to pursue new opportunities.

“It had become clear that recent and public shareholder tensions were proving an unnecessary distraction for both me and the company and this was not in the best interests of the company.

“The board and I agreed that what the company needs now is a board, management team and shareholder base that is purposefully unified and aligned for the company’s immediate challenges and for the many opportunities that exist in the future. I am leaving with mixed emotions.”

Irish Prime Minister reacted to the news by stating that his government is to examine cross-media ownership in Ireland.

O’Brien already owns the country’s biggest commercial radio stations and has a 22 per cent stake in IN&M.

PM Kenny said: “This issue has been brewing for some time. The Government in its own way will have a reflection on this in terms of cross-ownership of media.”

IN&M chairman James Osborne said: “Gavin O’Reilly leaves by mutual and amicable agreement.

“Vincent Crowley is well equipped to position the group for the challenges which continue to face the media industry.”

IN&M’s operating profit fell last year by 8.6 per cent to $100million. The company is in talks with lenders to refinance its $560million debt.

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