Strife-hit INM delays AGM and reclassifies ‘independent’ directors

Triona Mullane received €250,000 from Denis O’Brien for her start-up company

 Robert Pitt, chief executive INM  and  company chairman  Leslie Buckley. Photograph: Alan Betson

Robert Pitt, chief executive INM and company chairman Leslie Buckley. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Independent News & Media (INM), which is currently embroiled in a probe by the State’s corporate watchdog, has postponed its annual general meeting which was due to take place next month.

The Denis O’Brien-backed company will only be able to delay facing shareholders until the beginning of September, however, because under corporate law it can only allow a maximum of 15 months to elapse between AGMs.

Rumours have circulated for a fortnight that INM would delay facing shareholders while a bitter boardroom split plays out between chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley, Mr O’Brien’s closest associate.

The split is over the price to offer for Newstalk, a radio station owned by Mr O’Brien, in an abandoned deal last year that is now being probed by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

When The Irish Times queried INM last week about whether the planned meeting would be suspended, the company declined to comment.

It was reported on the website of INM-owned Irish Independent on Thursday, however, that it has been postponed. The new date will be announced to shareholders on Friday, an INM spokesman told the company’s own title.

Shareholders will also be informed that two directors who were previously classified as “independent” will now be reclassified as not independent.

This comes following the revelation last month in The Irish Times that Triona Mullane, which INM classified as “independent”, had in fact received €250,000 from Mr O’Brien for her start-up company. This had not been disclosed to shareholders.

The other independent directors include Allan Marshall, as well as Len O’Hagan, Jerome Kennedy and Terry Buckley.