Buckley is appointed chairman of INM
INDEPENDENT NEWS & Media yesterday appointed Leslie Buckley as its new chairman, just hours after the businessman had been re-elected to the board of the company at a shareholders’ meeting.
The position had been vacant since June when lawyer James Osborne was ousted at INM’s annual meeting by two of the company’s biggest shareholders, Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond.
Mr Buckley is a close business associate of Mr O’Brien, INM’s largest shareholder with a 29.9 per cent stake. Among other things, they have worked together closely at Digicel, the Caribbean mobile phone group, and are co-owners of online recruiter Saongroup.
They were also previously involved in telecom group Esat, which won Ireland’s second mobile phone licence.
Mr Buckley was voted off the board of INM in June 2011 after shareholder proxy advisers questioned his independence, given his links with Mr O’Brien, and whether his experience was relevant to the company.
He had served on the board since March 2009 but 58 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election last year. At the time, Mr Buckley was one of three representatives of Mr O’Brien on the board of INM.
His appointment yesterday restores Mr O’Brien’s representation on INM’s board.
With the O’Reilly family now no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the business, this now gives Mr O’Brien significant influence in INM. Paul Connolly and Lucy Gaffney also represent his interests with the group.
Mr Buckley was one of four nominees voted on to the board of INM yesterday as non-executive directors to bring its size up to 10.
In recent months, seven directors have left the board for one reason or another. These included Gavin O’Reilly, who stepped down as chief executive of the group.
The others elected yesterday were accountant and former Bank of Ireland director Jerome Kennedy; technology executive Triona Mullane; and Len O’Hagan, who is chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and who was previously a member of an advisory committee to INM’s subsidiary in Northern Ireland.
No questions were asked about Mr Buckley’s nomination in advance of it being put to a vote in the Conrad Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Mr Buckley did not attend.
Frank Murray, a non-executive director who chaired yesterday’s meeting, declared Mr Buckley elected on a show of hands.
Of the 310.6 million proxies cast, 297 million were in favour of Mr Buckley’s election and 3.8 million against. Just over nine million were withheld.
Former Irish Independent journalist Chris Glennon questioned Mr Kennedy’s appointment to the board, given his involvement as a director of Bank of Ireland from July 2007 to April 2012.
In response, Mr Murray said: “We see Jerome as part of the solution to the banking problem, not as part of the problem.”
Mr Glennon was the only shareholder in the room to vote against Mr Kennedy’s election. Mr Kennedy was later chosen by the board as the company’s senior independent director and chairman of its audit committee.
Mr O’Hagan will chair its remuneration committee while Mr Murray will chair the nomination and corporate governance committee.
After the meeting, chief executive Vincent Crowley said he was “happy that the board was back to full strength” and there was a “unity of purpose” that would now serve the company well.
On the sale of assets in South Africa, Mr Crowley said a strategic review was “ongoing” but “not concluded”. INM is due to publish its interim results on Friday.