Murdoch MacLennan makes his bow on the INM show
Publishing group’s new chairman oversees AGM at Dublin’s Westbury Hotel
CEO Michael Doorly and INM chairman Murdoch MacLennan during the AGM at the Westbury Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
At the 2017 agm of Independent News & Media (INM) in August, its embattled then-chairman Leslie Buckley pointedly ended proceedings by telling shareholders he would “see you all next year”, a calculated retort to his detractors.
In the INM chair, however, life can come at you fast – Buckley’s resignation was announced five months later. On Friday, his replacement as chairman, Murdoch MacLennan, oversaw his first INM agm in the same Westbury Hotel room where Buckley made his effective last stand.
The quietly spoken Scotsman learned first hand a truism of Irish corporate life: there is no agm spectacle quite like an Indo agm spectacle. MacLennan seemed utterly bemused at what he has walked himself into.
The meeting began well. Genial chief executive, Michael Doorly, posed smiling for photographs with veteran shareholders. He even found a misplaced wallet, and walked the room calling out its owner’s name until they were reunited. If there was a cat stuck up a tree, he’d probably have rescued it.
The directors then took their places. As a battalion of photographers snapped the every move of Doorly and his chairman with a ferocity one might expect for Westlife, MacLennan got his first clue of what lay ahead.
He read out a statement announcing INM’s “horror” at an alleged data breach that may have compromised journalists’ sources, and which has engulfed INM in a State investigation.
Doorly, assisted by a rolling script on two autocues, then took shareholders through its new strategy. At this stage, it felt more like a production than an agm. INM’s mission is apparently “enriching lives... informing, entertaining...”.
Shareholders gave him a round of applause. MacLennan opened the floor to questions, and the entertainment began.
The first rambling question covered the weather for its last meeting, the shareholder’s disgruntlement that editors never publish his letters, the share price, abortion, and an apparent dearth of League of Ireland football coverage. MacLennan looked stunned, but replied politely.
After a few mundane financial questions, another shareholder asked for help getting a driving licence, while yet another asked if INM would consider calling the Garda instead of the ODCE.
MacLennan likely never dealt with this sort of thing while on the board of the Telegraph group. After proceedings concluded, he found himself quite literally cornered by reporters calling out questions about the ODCE. He only managed to punch through their lines by saying he had to take a phone call.
Welcome to INM world, Mr MacLennan.Whether you think INM is in the media business or the digital business, the truth is it is really in show business.