Gavin O’Reilly says INM governance a ‘bit upside-down’
Ex-chief executive recalls time in 2008 Harvey Weinstein tried to get him to pull article
Gavin O’Reilly: says his father Anthony is in great health and “happily he’s moved on to the next phase of his life”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Gavin O’Reilly, a former chief executive of Independent News & Media, has criticised governance at the company in the wake of a boardroom spat between chairman Leslie Buckley and Robert Pitt, who last week stood down as chief executive, and issues regarding the composition of its board.
Mr O’Reilly left INM in 2012 following a long-running dispute with Denis O’Brien, who owns nearly 30 per cent of the company and is a close associate of Mr Buckley.
“For years after 2006 [when Denis O’Brien became a shareholder] ... I had to listen to nauseating accusations of a lack of independence [at INM] and cronies on the board,” he told Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times . “I look at INM today and it’s probably a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It does seem like the governance of the company is a little bit upside-down.”
Mr O’Reilly is also chairman of Dublin-based communications group Red Flag Consulting. Mr O’Brien has taken a legal case against Red Flag, alleging that it compiled a dossier for a client that was potentially damaging to him.
Listen to Inside Business
Last week Mr O’Brien failed to get court orders directing Red Flag to give him documents that might disclose the identity of the client.
Commenting on the case, Mr O’Reilly said: “In the normal course of our business, we pull together research and information on lots of issues and people. That’s our absolute right to do so. In respect of the plaintiff [Denis O’Brien] demanding that he had some God-given right to know who our client is, quite simply he doesn’t and client confidentiality is paramount to us.”
Mr O’Reilly also recounted how Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing accusations of rape, phoned him in mid-2008 to demand that an interview with a female journalist at the London Independent, which INM owned at the time, be pulled.
“[He] started yelling down the phone, using all sorts of expletives ... He was going to sue unless the story got cancelled,” Mr O’Reilly said. “Anyway, I did what many brave executives have done when it comes to matters editorial – I did nothing.
“Two days later, there was a bouquet of white flowers from Harvey Weinstein to thank me for the article because apparently it had turned out to be a positive article ... and he obviously felt I had intervened in a positive way, which I didn’t.”
On the health of his 81-year-old father, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, he said: “He’s great. He’s gone through the wars a little bit with three bouts of back surgery. He lives most of the time in France, and obviously he’s gone through some pretty extraordinary times [after being bankrupted], but happily he’s moved on to the next phase of his life.”