INM once again making the headlines for all the wrong reasons

Chief executive Robert Pitt has reserved his position on how he might vote at agm

INM chief executive Robert Pitt (left) and chairman Leslie Buckley with fellow directors Ryan Preston and Jerome Kennedy at the company’s egm in Dublin last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

INM chief executive Robert Pitt (left) and chairman Leslie Buckley with fellow directors Ryan Preston and Jerome Kennedy at the company’s egm in Dublin last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Not for the first time in recent years, Independent News & Media is making the headlines rather than writing them with the revelation that its chief executive Robert Pitt “reserves his position” on how he might vote on resolutions at its agm next month.

This offers up the unprecedented prospect of Pitt voting against one or more of the motions being put before the meeting, which itself was delayed because of the bitter split within the boardroom over the past number of months.

It’s hard to think of another Irish, or even global, plc where such an extraordinary scenario has played out.

Pitt’s defiance was revealed in bold lettering in Leslie Buckley’s note to shareholders outlining the agenda for the meeting, which was published on Monday.

As you would expect, the other directors all support the various motions. In ordinary circumstances, a chief executive wouldn’t survive such open defiance of the board.

But this is no ordinary situation. Pitt and Buckley clashed last year over a proposal that INM buy Newstalk, the national radio station controlled by Denis O’Brien, who is INM’s biggest shareholder.

The dispute related to the price tag. It is understood Pitt wanted to offer a lower price than a valuation obtained by Communicorp, Newstalk’s owner.

Pitt complained about his row with Buckley initially to independent non-executive director Jerome Kennedy who, as it happens, announced last week that he was stepping down from the board. A subcommittee of the INM board then examined the complaint and found there “was no issue”.

Emboldened

It later transpired that Pitt made a protected disclosure about the row to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, which is investigating the matter. This makes his position somewhat bulletproof and perhaps emboldened him to take this extraordinary course of action.

Some seven resolutions will be put to INM shareholders at the meeting. We don’t know which of these that Pitt might vote against but it could include the re-election of the chairman and the six non-executive directors, or the report of the remuneration committee (Pitt had his annual bonus substantially cut last year, to €87,000 from €218,000 in 2015).

Of course, having reserved his position, he might simply support all of the motions or just abstain from voting – his point having already been made very publicly.

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