Investor approaches confirmed by IN&M


THE ROW between the two largest shareholders in Independent News & Media continued at the weekend as a spokesman for the company confirmed that it had been approached by a number of potential investors.

“There have been a number of approaches by parties with a potential interest in making strategic investments and reflecting the stated value of the company at present,” the spokesman said.

He would not comment on a report that the company had been approached by the German publishing group Axel Springer.

However, an industry source confirmed that there had been such an approach.

The talks did not lead anywhere, due apparently to the two sides having widely differing views on the value of INM. There was no comment from Axel Springer on the matter.

Meanwhile, the spokesman denied a claim made on RTÉ Radio’s Marion Finucane Showyesterday that INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly had taped a telephone conversation he had with major shareholder Denis O’Brien.

The claim was made by Mr O’Brien’s spokesman, James Morrissey.

In a statement issued during the radio show, the IN&M spokesman said: “James Morrissey’s assertion that Gavin O’Reilly taped a telephone conversation between Denis O’Brien, Paul Connolly and Gavin O’Reilly is categorically untrue.

“Given the very serious threats made by Denis O’Brien on that call, contemporaneous notes of the call were taken by Gavin O’Reilly.

“It was those contemporaneous notes, and not a recording, that formed the basis of a subsequent file note of the conversation.”

The three-way telephone conversation on August 27th was between Mr O’Reilly, Mr O’Brien – who was in Ibiza – and Mr O’Brien’s associate Mr Connolly.

Mr O’Reilly’s file note reads: “OB said he wanted to discuss last week’s board meeting, which he said was the ‘lowest of the low’ he had ever seen at a plc.

“He said the seven ‘O’Reilly’ directors had ganged up on ‘my’ [O’Brien’s] three nominees . . .

“DOB said that in March we agreed to be aligned, but through my ‘solo run’ , I had ‘broken the agreement’ and I ‘needed to start to consult with shareholders’.

“I said that I do and said that I was surprised last week at the restructuring meeting to hear for the first time that DOB felt management was doing a solo run and or had broken any agreement and stressed that management was merely trying to arrive at a solution . . .”

The note continued: “He [DOB] then grew more agitated and said that ‘things needed to change’ and unless they did, he’d call an egm ‘tomorrow’.

“I repeated that that was his right. He became more aggressive and said if I wanted ‘a fight’, he’d ‘destroy me and your father ’ and ‘go after everything’.”

Mr O’Brien then outlined his views on five issues including his view that the company needs “a new, proper board” and a “sane discussion” about the appointment of a new chairman, the note records.

Mr O’Brien subsequently wrote to IN&M calling for an egm and detailing the resolutions he wants put.

IN&M has been locked in talks with bondholders on refinancing a €200 million issue that was meant to be paid in May and has been rolled over ever since.