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
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.
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?