INM confirms finance chief Ryan Preston to leave ‘by mutual consent’

Whistleblower to depart troubled media group in January

Ryan Preston, the chief financial officer of Independent News & Media, is understood to be in discussions about his future. Photograph: Bryan Meade

Ryan Preston, the chief financial officer of Independent News & Media, is understood to be in discussions about his future. Photograph: Bryan Meade

 

Independent News & Media (INM) has confirmed that Ryan Preston, its chief financial officer, is to leave the group at the end of January.

Following a morning report by The Irish Times that Mr Preston was in discussions with the company about his exit, INM issued a statement to the stock exchange at 2.30pm.

“Ryan Preston is to leave the company by mutual consent... INM is currently engaged in a process to appoint a successor to Mr Preston and this appointment will be announced in due course,” it told shareholders.

Michael Doorly, INM’s chief executive, thanked Mr Preston for his work and wished him well.

Mr Preston was brought into INM in 2014 by Robert Pitt, the former chief executive who left the publishing group last year. They had both previously worked together for Tesco’s corporate operation in Europe.

Mr Pitt later made a series of whistleblower complaints to State authorities and also to INM about the alleged conduct of former chairman Leslie Buckley. Mr Preston also made a similar protected disclosure internally at INM that was supportive of Mr Pitt’s position.

Both men alleged that Mr Buckley had pressurised them to pay an inflated price for Newstalk, a radio station that had been put up for sale by its owner, Denis O’Brien, who is also INM’s largest shareholder. They resisted the alleged request, and the Newstalk deal never went ahead.

But while Mr Pitt left INM a year after that row became public, Mr Preston remained in his role as CFO.

Inspectors appointed

High Court inspectors were appointed earlier this year to investigate the Newstalk allegation and a range of other matters, including a suspected major data breach that included journalists emails.

Mr Buckley has denied any wrongdoing and has consistently said he will “fully and robustly” defend himself regarding the INM investigation.

Mr Preston’s exit is the latest in series of recent management changes at INM.

Human resources specialist Celine Doyle, who was promoted to the role of chief people officer at INM seven months ago, left last month.

Gerry Wilde, the group’s long-serving head of IT, also left INM last month. Mr Wilde is expected to be among the witnesses who will be interviewed by the High Court inspectors.