CEO Pitt leaves INM after chairman row
ROBERT Pitt is to leave his position as chief executive of Independent News and Media, bringing an end to a longrunning boardroom battle.
Mr Pitt and the company’s chairman, Leslie Buckley, fell out over an abandoned proposal for INM to buy the radio station Newstalk, which is owned by Denis O’Brien.
The two men’s representatives were in talks in recent months in an effort to resolve the dispute.
Mr Buckley is a long-term associate of Mr O’Brien, who owns a 29.88% stake in INM.
Mr Pitt felt that the asking price for Newstalk was too high and he refused to pay it.
He made a whistleblower complaint about his dealings with Mr Buckley to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), the State’s corporate watchdog.
Ryan Preston, the chief financial officer, made a protected disclosure internally at INM on similar grounds to Mr Pitt’s.
In a short statement released to the stock exchange yesterday afternoon, the company said that Mr Pitt had decided to leave the company, of which he has been CEO for three years, with effect from today, ‘to pursue other interests’.
It is understood that INM has reached a settlement with Mr Pitt; however, the terms of this have not been disclosed.
The ODCE is continuing to investigate the argument over the Newstalk deal.
An independent inquiry commissioned by INM’s board failed to reach a conclusion due to Mr Pitt and Mr Buckley’s conflicting accounts of talks about the Newstalk deal.
In August, Mr Pitt refused to publicly back the re-election of Mr Buckley as chairman of the company at the annual general meeting. Nevertheless, Mr Buckley retained his position on the board.
However, Mr Pitt’s departure from INM does not necessarily mean an end to the ODCE’s investigation.