Eyes have it: Robert Pitt’s pointed display of defiance at INM vote

INM’s chief kept his hands down and stared ahead as chairman Leslie Buckley re-elected

Stare-out:  INM chief executive Robert Pitt (far left) and chairman Leslie Buckley (far right) at the Independent News & Media agm at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Stare-out: INM chief executive Robert Pitt (far left) and chairman Leslie Buckley (far right) at the Independent News & Media agm at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

When Robert Pitt, the Independent News and Media chief executive, on Wednesday chose not to back the re-election of the chairman, Leslie Buckley, it was never going to have any practical impact.

Buckley, with whom Pitt has fallen out in an extraordinary boardroom row over governance, was always going to be re-elected, with or without Pitt’s vote. Shareholders holding more than 96 per cent of the stock voted for Buckley.

Pitt’s abstention wasn’t about practicalities. This was pure theatre.

When the other directors raised their hands to vote for Buckley, Pitt kept his firmly on the table as the whole room, gripped with the tension, watched. He sent Buckley a very public message in a calculated, blatant show of defiance.

The chairman, a Denis O’Brien ally and a veteran corporate scrapper with the scars to prove it, chose to send Pitt a defiant message of his own.

Eyeballed

As the other directors raised their hands, Buckley turned to his right and eyeballed his chief executive. Pitt stared straight ahead, out into the room, where investors and the media looked on in astonishment as any last vestiges of unity on the INM board disintegrated before their eyes.

In December, at the last meeting of INM shareholders, Pitt and Buckley were at least able to put on a show, however strained. Then, they sat beside each other at the top table, made small talk, and even posed for photographs together.

On Wednesday, it was clear that the relationship between the two has since completely broken down, and looks to be well beyond repair.

Pitt and Buckley sat at opposite ends of the table. Ryan Preston, the chief financial officer – who, like Pitt, has made a whistleblower complaint about Buckley – sat so far down the top table, he was almost hidden behind the lectern.

Apart from Buckley’s blatant staring contest during the vote, the chairman and the chief executive didn’t even look at each other. The chill between them could have frozen a lake. How on earth is the INM board functioning?

The answer might be that, with a chairman and a chief executive who can barely stand to be in the same room, the board cannot be functioning normally at all. Investors cannot be blind to this, and analysts are already warning that the row is affecting INM’s share price.

How much longer can the other INM directors sit by in silence, as this corporate governance mess threatens to overwhelm their company?

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.