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Outgoing Chairman James Osborne (R) shakes hands with CEO Vincent Crowley at the Independent News & Media AGM in Citywest, Dublin today Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Independent News & Media chairman and finance chief voted off board

Today’s annual general meeting also saw director Paul Connolly survive a move to remove him from the board.

THE CHAIRMAN AND chief financial officer of Independent News & Media (INM) were voted off the company’s board at its annual general meeting in Dublin today.

Chairman James Osborne and chief financial officer Donal Buggy were voted off the board with representatives of Denis O’Brien, who owns 30 per cent of INM, reported to have cast votes against the pair’s reappointment.

Their departure follows that of former chief executive Gavin O’Reilly in April as the long-running battle for control of Ireland’s largest producer of newspapers continued.

At today’s meeting, members were asked to reject the re-election of board member Paul Connolly, a representative of O’Brien who launched a legal challenge against the company over its €1.9 million payment to the outgoing O’Reilly.

That pay package was described by representatives of O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, who owns just over six per cent of INM, as excessive at today’s AGM in Citywest in Dublin.

The support of representatives of Desmond and O’Brien ensured Connolly, a former director of Digicel and Esat Telecom which operated in Ireland as Esat Digifone, remained on the board while Osborne and Buggy departed.

In a statement issued this evening, Connolly said he was grateful for the support he had received:

Shareholders have today strongly backed my re-election to the Board, despite a recommendation urging them not to do so.

I am very grateful for the level of support shown to me from across the whole shareholder base and look forward to supporting the new Chief Executive and his management team in creating a new and strongerINM.

This vote is a clear indication that shareholders in our Company strongly believe in upholding the highest standards of corporate governance.

RTÉ News reported that the developments at today’s AGM suggested that the balance of power within INM had shifted to O’Brien who has been increasing his stake in INM in recent years.

But chief executive Vincent Crowley told the broadcaster: “I don’t believe it is a Denis O’Brien company. He is obviously a big shareholder and we need to listen to him but I am an independent CEO and we have a board which includes his representatives and we’ll operate accordingly.”

Denis O’Brien, whose mobile phone company Digicel yesterday announced profits of more than €1billion, holds 29.9 per cent in INM – the most someone can own in a company before they have to make a bid for the entire company.

He also owns Communicorp, which operates both Today FM and Newstalk radio stations.

AUDIO: What did Gavin O’Reilly do with his first day post-INM resignation?

Read: Denis O’Brien criticises Sindo for “one of the most biased campaigns ever waged”

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