INM shares surge amid Goodman stakebuilding

INM’s editor-in-chief and Denis O’Brien’s last board nominee are to leave the business

Independent House, Dublin: Beef magnate Larry Goodman is behind several recent large purchases of INM’s shares. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Independent House, Dublin: Beef magnate Larry Goodman is behind several recent large purchases of INM’s shares. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The market value of Independent News & Media (INM) surged to a ten-week high on Thursday after it emerged that beef magnate Larry Goodman had built up a stake of below 3 per cent in the group in recent weeks.

The Irish Times first reported on Thursday that Mr Goodman had been linked to trading in the stock. Market sources said that his active stock buying since late April had helped INM shares to rally almost 20 per cent during the period, following a recent sell-off.

A spokesman for Mr Goodman declined to comment on Wednesday night when asked to confirm he has been stake-building. INM also declined to comment.

Shares in INM jumped as much as 6.4 per cent to 10 cent on the Irish Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, giving the embattled media group a market value of €138.6 million.

The development comes as the company announced the departure on Wednesday of Paul Connolly, a board nominee of INM’s largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, who owns 29.9 per cent of the stock. This follows the resignation in March of former chairman Leslie Buckley, who was also Mr O’Brien’s nominee.

Mr Connolly’s resignation means Mr O’Brien, who currently holds a near 30 per cent stake, now has no board representation. Mr O’Brien made no response when asked if he planned to renew his board representation.

A third Irish businessman, Dermot Desmond, owns 15 per cent of INM.

Speculation

INM has also confirmed its editor-in-chief, Stephen Rae, is leaving. Mr Rae served as the group’s most senior editorial figure for five years, almost entirely during the reign of Mr Buckley as chairman.

The changes have fuelled speculation of a potential shareholder shake-up and the potential future exit of Mr O’Brien from INM.

The Irish Times reported last month that a top 10 INM shareholder had urged the company to use some of its €90 million cash pile to buy back Mr O’Brien’s holding or facilitate talks with a third party that might want to buy him out.

When pressed to comment on this at last week’s agm, INM’s new chairman, Murdoch MacLennan, said he “could not comment on that”.

Mr Connolly, who put himself forward for re-election to the board only last Friday at its agm, had “decided to resign” after nine years as a director, INM said.

‘Disappointed’

Mr MacLennan told investors he was “disappointed” that Mr Connolly was stepping down. Mr Connolly has long been one of Mr O’Brien’s closest associates, and his departure will be seen as a blow to the billionaire’s influence at INM.

Mr Rae announced he had “completed my five-year term” as group editor. He paid tribute to those with whom he had worked in his 25-year career there.

“I am looking forward to taking on a new digital project,” he said. The company’s chief executive, Michael Doorly, thanked Mr Rae for his contribution.

Sources have indicated that Mr Rae will be replaced by Richard McClean, the current managing director of the Belfast Telegraph, but this has not been confirmed. It is understood Mr McClean will be appointed head of publishing. The role of group editor-in-chief is being discontinued.