Osborne in the spotlight at INM's Groundhog Day


IT IS a case of Groundhog Day at Independent News & Media. For the second year running, the board of INM is going to recommend that a director representing 22 per cent shareholder Denis O’Brien be voted off at its annual meeting.

Paul Connolly is in the firing line after taking the unprecedented step of taking legal action against the company to have Gavin O’Reilly’s €1.87 million compensation declared unlawful.

It was an odd move given that the money has been paid to O’Reilly, although it had the effect of putting the sizeable payoff firmly in the headlines.

In the middle of all this is lawyer James Osborne.

He took on the chairman’s role late last year, presumably to steer a neutral course between the O’Reilly and O’Brien factions to help get the company back on an even keel.

Some accounts suggest that Osborne was of the view that O’Brien was onside in relation to all aspects of O’Reilly’s departure.

He is said to have been furious by Connolly’s march to the High Court on Wednesday and sought his resignation.

Connolly’s beef is the sizeable cheque paid to O’Reilly – roughly two years’ salary.

It is a chunky sum for sure, if not exactly unprecedented. Gavin’s father Sir Anthony O’Reilly was given a €2.5 million payoff by INM on his departure from the company in May 2009.

You can’t help wondering if all this might have been avoided if Leslie Buckley, O’Brien’s closest business ally, had not been ousted from the board last year.