Doorly to usher in new era at INM as Pitt exits
station Newstalk — owned by Denis O’brien, a close business associate of Buckley and the largest shareholder in INM, publisher of the Sunday Independent and other titles.
The dispute was understood to have come down to the price INM might pay for the station — with the ceo’s advisers supporting a lower price than Buckley’s. Pitt brought the matter to the attention of INM’S (now former) senior independent director Jerome Kennedy, and a board sub-committee was established to look into the matter. The board — with the agreed absence of Pitt and Buckley — had unanimously adopted the sub-committee’s report that no issue of concern arose.
But that was far from the end of the matter. Pitt took his complaint further, making a protected disclosure to Ireland’s company law watchdog, the ODCE. INM established its own “formal independent review”, carried out by a senior counsel and a governance expert.
As the row dragged on, it began to hurt the company. In half-year results published in July, the company said: “Profitability has been directly impacted by costs associated with the independent review and meeting the requirements of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.” Legal costs for the row exceeded €1m by this point and continued to rack up.
Despite the tensions making their way into the public domain, no resolution proved forthcoming — and Pitt and Buckley remained in situ all the way to the INM agm in August.
The circular disseminated prior to the meeting had indicated that Pitt “reserved his position” is relation to Buckley’s re-election to INM’S board. Sure enough, when the meeting took place in front of a packed room in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel, Pitt did not raise his hand when Buckley’s re-election to the board was put to the meeting.
It was the most dramatic moment yet and is believed to have been the first time in Irish corporate history that the ceo of a plc did not support his chairman in a public vote.
If anyone thought that Pitt and Buckley’s working relationship might be able to function despite their differences, there was no coming back from the agm. An exit package was agreed last week. Although INM has reportedly set aside €2m for departures of senior management this year, Pitt is believed to have received just a portion of that sum.
And so it now falls to veteran Doorly to bring INM into a new era of growth at a time of unprecedented change in the media, bringing with it great challenges and great opportunity.
Independent News & Media secretary Michael Doorly (left) has been appointed new interim chief executive of INM after the departure of Robert Pitt
INM has cash on its balance sheet of over €85m