O'Brien calls for shareholder talks on sale of Independent

Denis O’Brien, the second biggest shareholder in Independent News & Media, has called for a meeting of shareholders to bring about the immediate sale or closure of its loss-making papers, the Independent and Independent on Sunday.

O’Brien, who owns more than a quarter of the shares, asked Dublin-based company to hold an extraordinary general meeting to vote on eight separate resolutions about the future of the business.

Most of his measures are believed to focus on reducing the costs but include the rejection of the sale of its South African ads business, which was agreed in principle last week.

He also called for chairman Brian Hillery to leave and an annual payment of €300,000 made to Anthony O’Reilly, Independent News’s largest shareholder who stood down as chief executive in May, halted with ‘with immediate effect’.

O’Brien issued a statement yesterday, Bloomberg reported, in which he repeated his call from last year for INM ‘to take immediate action to dispose of or close operations of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday’.

He also wants a detailed schedule of all board member expenses since January 2000, of both executive and non-executive directors, be prepared by independent accountants and circulated to all shareholders.

The rouge shareholder, reported the Irish Times, also called for the immediate appointment of a new senior independent director.

Anthony O’Reilly stood aside earlier this year, making way for son Gavin to become chief executive of the company, as part of a deal with O’Brien that saw him appoint three representatives to the board.

The deal meant warring factions called a truce on two years of dispute.

However the disagreements have flared again. The company, which has debts of €1.3bn, has been locked in talks with its banks and bondholders for months over the refinancing of the business.

According to reports last week bondholders, who are owed €200m, are keen to action a debt for equity swap that could see them take control of the business.

Last week, the INM announced that it had agreed to sell interest in its South African outdoor advertising business, INM Outdoor, for €98m (£86.2m) to help delivery of its strategy to substantially reduce its debt.

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