With Robert Pitt having taken his leave of Independent News & Media on Friday, after agreeing an exit deal with the company, the focus now turns to the position of chairman Leslie Buckley.
As a long-time business associate of Denis O’Brien, INM’s largest shareholder with a stake of just under 30 per cent, you might assume that Buckley would be bulletproof.
But the events of the past 12 months have been so extraordinary that shareholders would be within their rights to question Buckley’s position with the media group.
Let's not forget that Pitt made a protected disclosure to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement about Buckley last year. The pair fell out over a proposal for INM to acquire Newstalk, the national radio station owned by O'Brien. Chief financial officer Ryan Preston also made a protected disclosure about Newstalk.
Pitt refused to pay the sum that O’Brien was seeking for Newstalk, and had a major disagreement with Buckley about the price tag.
In August, Pitt abstained in the vote to re-elect Buckley as chairman, an unthinkable act for the chief executive of a publicly listed company to take.
In addition, INM is currently in breach of the corporate governance code for listed companies, which says there should be at least an equal number of independent and non-independent directors, aside from the chairman.
This followed a review by Deloitte last year, which found that Allan Marshall and Triona Mullane could no longer be considered as independent.
INM is currently seeking new independent directors, who were supposed to have been appointed by the end of August as per a deadline set by Buckley. So far, no appointments have been made.
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, INM’s share price has declined by 19 per cent in the year to date, amid another difficult year for circulation and advertising revenues at its stable of newspapers.
INM shareholders would be within their rights to wonder why Buckley isn’t clearing his desk, too.