O'Brien Raises the Stakes in Battle of IN&M Billionnaires

03 June 2008

DUBLIN: Billionaire telecoms tycoon Denis O'Brien, tormentor-in-chief of Independent News and Media chairman Sir Anthony O'Reilly, and the company's second-largest shareholder, has again upped his stake, from 22.67% to 25.04%. The move precedes IN&M's annual meeting on June 11.

Although still trailing O'Reilly's 27.88% controlling holding, O'Brien's slice of the action has reached the level at which he can block special resolutions, should he so choose.

The latter, a vocal critic of O'Reilly's helmsmanship of the international newspaper group, is demanding that its twenty-strong board be halved in number.

He also complains that the links between O'Reilly and some independent directors are closer than is appropriate to good corporate governance

Says O'Brien: "They need to restructure the board entirely. Instead of having twenty [directors], best practice would be to have ten to eleven people; and they need to put maybe four or five people under thirty on the board. I'm talking about a complete mind change." 
He also opposes IN&M's retention of its two lossmaking British national newspapers, The Independent and Independent on Sunday, arguing that they are a drain on the company's finances. He continues to press for their sale, dismissing the prestigious titles as an O'Reilly "vanity operation".

Data sourced from Guardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff