Niall McGarry, the founder and majority shareholder of digital publisher Maximum Media, which operates in Ireland and Britain, confirmed he has stepped away from executive involvement in the Irish business.
Mr McGarry told The Irish Times that he will focus instead on its business in the UK, where it launched with its Joe digital platform in 2015. He said he will work in conjunction with the existing management team in the UK.
The company's chairman, Justin Cullen, will step up to assume an executive role in the Irish business, which employs 94 staff in Dublin, alongside its existing management team.
Mr McGarry’s decision to step away comes after media agency, Core, pulled its campaigns with the publishing group over concerns that traffic numbers for a 2017 podcast were artificially boosted by a so-called “click farm”. Maximum Media said it was treating the matter seriously.
Mr McGarry said on Thursday night that, in light of the controversy over the podcast, “this is what needed to happen”.
“What has happened recently has given me the reason to do it [focus on the UK business],” he said. “I need to allow the Irish business to get on with it [without him].”
Mr McGarry said he believed his “personal brand is overshadowing” the business: “I want to change that. Attacks on the business can be attacks on me.”
On Monday, the board of digital advertising trade group, IAB Ireland, met to discuss the controversy over the 2017 podcast numbers. It says it has “scheduled a meeting” with Maximum Media.
Mr McGarry is among the most prominent and outspoken of Ireland’s digital media publishers in recent years. He launched Joe.ie in 2010, while Maximum’s other titles also include the digital publication, Her.
The UK and Irish business are owned through separate structures. Former rugby star Jerry Flannery is Mr McGarry's main partner in both companies. Mr McGarry owns 68 per cent of the Irish business and about 80 per cent in the UK.
Maximum Media had total sales of about €11.5 million last year.