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Regime change at Independent News & Media

Today’s announcement regarding the directorate changes at Independent News & Media largely focuses on the retirement of Sir Anthony O’Reilly, after 36 years leading the Company. His son, Gavin, will take over the reigns as his father’s distinguished career at the newspaper group comes to a close.

However, the accompanying director changes highlight a change of regime at the Group. The Board will be slimmed down from its current 17 directors to only ten. But it is clear that the differences between the Board and Denis O’Brien, the second largest shareholder, have been significantly resolved.

Joining the Board are three directors with close connections to O’Brien, whose businesses Communicorp (his media business) and Digicel (his telecoms business). Joining the Board immediately are Leslie Buckley (founding director of Digicel), Paul Connolly (former director of Esat Telecom, previously owned by O’Brien) and Lucy Gaffney (founding director of Digicel and Chair of Communicorp).

Leaving the Board between now and the AGM on 12 June are Sir Anthony’s two other son and seven other non-executive directors. Also departing from the Board are executive directors Ivor Fallon and Vincent Crowley. Ahead of the 2008 AGM, Manifest had highlighted independence issue with each of the then non-executive directors.

According to the Irish Times this morning, O’Reilly and O’Brien were ‘coming under mounting pressure from Independent News Media’s bankers to cast aside their differences in advance of a looming deadline for repayment of a €200 million bond’. This clearly provided the motivation for the changes which have changed the face of the Board.

Speaking on Irish radio, CEO-designate Gavin O’Reilly described the latest development as a ‘win-win’ for all IN&M shareholders, saying that Sir Anthony and O’Brien had found common ground when they met for the first time late last year. Changes are reported to have been amicable, with Sir Anthony having been unanimously named President Emeritus by the Board.

What do you think?