DUBLIN: Independent News & Media, the global newspaper empire controlled by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, quondam Irish rugby international and a former ceo of H J Heinz, is under intensified siege by compatriot shareholder and telecoms tycoon Denis O'Brien.

The latter this week upped his holding in the Dublin-headquartered company from 21.07% to 22.67%  – little more than a billionaire's blink away from O'Reilly's controlling 27.88%.

O'Brien has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the group's management. Although conceding that it has a good range of assets, O'Brien condemns IN&M's flagship UK titles – The Independent and Independent on Sunday – as a "vanity operation".

Both titles, despite their influence and prestige, have been immersed in the red since their inception – The Independent in October 1986 and its Sunday sibling in 1990. O'Reilly, a long-time shareholder in both newspapers, acquired control in March 1998. 
They stand out like a sore thumb in an otherwise profitable group, their ongoing immersion in the red proving a rag of similar hue to the O'Brien bull.

With IN&M's annual meeting due next month, the standoff between the group's two largest shareholders is widely expected.

It could resemble an eliminator for the Rugby World Cup but O'Reilly, twenty-nine times capped for the Irish team, knows how to gain advantage in a scrum.

Few believe him likely to be baulked by O'Brien.

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