Ex-INM executive found texts from O'Brien spokesman 'threatening'
FORMER Independent News and Media (INM) executive Karl Brophy has told the High Court he regarded a series of text messages from Denis O’Brien’s spokesman as “bizarre and threatening”.
The messages arrived after a journalist rang Mr Brophy for reaction to formal complaints from Mr O’Brien’s spokesman James Morrissey about negative coverage in Independent group newspapers concerning Mr O’Brien, the largest shareholder in INM.
Mr Morrissey had complained there were clear signs of “a vendetta” in INM against Mr O’Brien.
That followed a period of widespread coverage in the media, including in INM titles, in which the findings of the Moriarty tribunal against Mr O’Brien were reventilated, Mr Brophy said. The coverage included comment pieces, particularly one in the Sunday Independent, which were mainly negative, Mr Brophy said.
He said he played no role in any of that coverage and gave no directions about what should be written in the Sunday Independent, whose editor is Anne Harris. “I would be too frightened to tell Anne Harris what to do,” he said.
Mr Brophy, who was appointed director of corporate affairs and content development in INM in 2010 by its former chief executive Gavin O’Reilly, was giving evidence on the second day of his action against INM over a decision dismissing him from his €300,000 per year post. He is seeking damages and a declaration the dismissal decision was unlawful.
Yesterday, Mr Brophy told his counsel Oisín Quinn SC of a series of “bizarre and threatening” text messages from Mr Morrissey. In those messages, Mr Morrissey accused him of “telling lies about me [Morrissey]”, the court heard.
One also said: “Karl – truth comes hard to you . . . ask Samantha McCaughren, Paul Cullen . . . When you stop telling lies about me I will stop telling the truth about you . . . Just remind your father of the day he visited Fleishman [where Morrissey works] to enquire about digging the dirt on Denis O’Brien, you want the day and time? history dear boy! James.”
Mr Brophy said he replied to the texts stating he didn’t know what Mr Morrissey was on about and it was inappropriate for Mr Morrissey to try to “bully me through text messages”.
Since he was placed on “gardening leave” last May, he said he had continued to be paid his salary. It was never explained to him by anyone why he could not continue in his role, he added.
INM denies it did anything unlawful and contends Mr Brophy was made redundant as part of a decision to restructure its business and reduce costs.
Brian O’Moore SC, for INM, told the court yesterday there was no dispute Mr Brophy was placed on gardening leave. Mr Brophy had rejected an offer for his notice period to be translated into a lump sum, counsel added.
Earlier, Mr Brophy said that the day after Mr O’Reilly was ousted from the company, he met his successor, Vincent Crowley, who told him that, if Mr O’Brien “did not want me in”, his position in INM would be unbearable, Mr Brophy said.
A week later, amid further controversy over legal action brought by Paul Connolly, a Denis O’Brien-nominated INM director, over Mr O’Reilly’s €1.87 million exit package, Mr Brophy said he met with Mr Crowley who told him, while he had performed his duties exceptionally well, “my role had gone too far with the Gavin stuff”.
The words “redundancy” or “cost saving” was never mentioned to him at any stage, he said.
The hearing resumes on Tuesday.