Buckley returns in INM soap opera twist
ANALYSIS:Leslie Buckley now chairs a board from which he was ejected just 14 months ago
BUCKO IS back. The wily Cork businessman Leslie Buckley was returned to the board of Independent News Media yesterday and given the chairman’s chain of office too.
It was just 14 months ago that INM shareholders kicked him off the board as a non-executive director, a rare event for an Irish public company. Yet not a single person in attendance at yesterday’s extraordinary general meeting was bothered to ask why the board wanted to re-elect him after such a short period.
Last year, Buckley wasn’t independent enough to merit being re-elected at INM’s annual meeting, given his close ties with its largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien.
Questions were also raised by shareholder proxy groups as to how relevant Buckley’s experience was to running a media company such as INM, even though he had a reputation as a successful corporate troubleshooter with Aer Lingus and Waterford Crystal.
O’Brien owned 22 per cent of INM at the time, which was not considered a large enough stake to merit the three board representatives he enjoyed back then.
He has since increased his stake to 29.9 per cent and, with the O’Reillys having left the stage, if not the share register, the way was clear for Buckley to return.
This is just the latest twist in the story of INM, which has become something of a soap opera over the past four years.
In June, James Osborne was removed as chairman at the annual meeting when O’Brien and Dermot Desmond voted against his re-election. Osborne had only warmed the chairman’s seat for six months. He had overseen the departure of Gavin O’Reilly as chief executive, inadvertently doing O’Brien’s bidding for him.
In the weeks between O’Reilly’s departure and the immediate aftermath of the AGM, there was a stampede for the exit by non-executive directors, mostly from the O’Reilly era.
This left the company in the embarrassing position of not having a board of sufficient size to meet the terms of its articles of association.
There was also the bizarre legal case brought by Paul Connolly, a non-executive director representing O’Brien, against INM to have the €1.87 million compensation payout to Gavin O’Reilly declared unlawful.
This was settled just before the judge was about to give his verdict, having cost the company a tidy sum in legal fees and laid bare some of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that led to the former chief executive’s exit.
The appointment of four new directors yesterday brings the complement to 10, with O’Brien having three representatives – Lucy Gaffney is the other.