O'Brien share buy thickens the plot further at INM


HOW APPROPRIATE that Denis O’Brien should substantially increase his shareholding in Independent News Media (INM) on World Press Freedom Day.

Much has been made of the potential negative consequences of O’Brien’s influence in Irish media were he to get control of INM, given that he already owns six radio licences, including those for Today FM and Newstalk.

His share-buying yesterday clearly puts it up to Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and the Government on this contentious issue. O’Brien paid a premium of about 27 per cent to buy the block of shares, a clear signal that he ain’t going away.

It also probably copperfastens Paul Connolly’s chances of re-election to the board of the company at its agm on June 8th.

The majority of the INM board have recommended that Connolly not be re-elected. The financier needs a majority of votes cast at the agm to remain in situ.

Given that about one-third of shareholders generally don’t bother voting at these meetings, O’Brien’s 27 per cent stake and the likely support of Dermot Desmond, who owns close to 6 per cent, should help Connolly home.

Connolly’s unprecedented legal action against INM to have former chief executive Gavin O’Reilly’s €1.87 million exit package declared unlawful might be in train on the very day of the annual meeting.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly has set aside three days for the trial, which will begin on June 6th. Maybe he can make some sense of it all.