The directors of the family-controlled Independent News & Media announced yesterday they would convene an extraordinary general meeting to vote on two of the proposals put forward by dissenting shareholder Denis O'Brien.
The meeting, to be held on 3 November, will vote on the fate of the non-family chairman, Dr Brian Hillery, and the senior independent director, Baroness Margaret Jay. Both have the backing of the controlling O'Reilly family and the board. A statement released by the board yesterday urged company shareholders to vote against O'Brien's proposals to replace the chairman and senior independent director.
It said: "It is very regrettable that Mr O'Brien has requisitioned an extraordinary general meeting of the company, proposing a number of resolutions which not only seek to overturn policies and strategies that the board has formally agreed to, but which also contradict the position previously adopted and agreed to by Mr O'Brien."
Anthony O'Reilly, INM's president emeritus, managed to avoid a direct vote on his position at the company as O'Brien's other proposals were deemed, if approved, to "have no legal effect".
The November meeting will bring to a head the ongoing public dispute between the O'Reilly family, the company's largest shareholders, and O'Brien, who has the second largest shareholding. O'Brien stated his frustrations with the family control of the business in a letter to the board earlier this month, where he also questioned the strategy being followed to ease the financial burden on the business. (Click here to read our coverage of the story)
O'Reilly first invested in a small INM in 1973 and has since become the largest shareholder in the business. He served as chairman from 1974-2000 and chief executive from 2000-2009. He was replaced by his son, Gavin O'Reilly (pictured), as chief executive in May 2009. (Click here to read our coverage of the story)
INM, which had 2008 revenues of €1.47 billion, has suffered from a decrease in advertising revenues for its print publications, including the UK daily newspaper the Independent, that has affected publishers across the world. The Irish group has been attempting to reduce its €1.4 billion of debt since early 2009 by selling off assets such as its South African outdoor advertising business.
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