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Tense scenes expected at Independent News & Media AGM today

The company has asked shareholders to remove a representative of Denis O’Brien from his position as director.

Denis O'Brien pictured last year
Denis O'Brien pictured last year
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

DISPUTES AT THE top of Independent News and Media are expected to surface at the company’s annual general meeting today.

Shareholders have been asked to reject one of the company’s directors amid an ongoing tussle for control of the media giant.

In May, the INM board asked shareholders to reject the re-election of board member Paul Connolly, who represents tycoon Denis O’Brien.

Connolly launched legal proceedings against the company in April challenging the payment made to outgoing chief executive Gavin O’Reilly when he stepped down earlier that month.

RTÉ reports that the payment totalled €1.87million, despite the company recording a pre-tax loss of €63.6million last year.

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

He has previously criticised the Sunday Independent, claiming that it is waging a “concerted and biased campaign” against him as he increased his stake in the company. It is believed that his stake in the company will be sufficient to prevent Connolly’s removal from the board.

Another representative of O’Brien, Leslie Buckley, was voted off the board last June.

Paul Connolly is a former director of Digicel and also of Esat Telecom, which operated in Ireland as Esat Digifone.

In a further twist, the Irish Times reports that Dermot Desmond, who owns just over six per cent of INM, has cast proxy votes opposing the re-election of much of the company board including chairman James Osborne.

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

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Michael Freeman

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