Independent chief O'Reilly increases stake in company
DUBLIN - Sir Tony O'Reilly, chief executive of Independent News & Media, has bought almost £15m of company shares in retaliation against 'dissident shareholder' Denis O'Brien's growing stake in the publisher of The Independent.
The purchase, announced to the Irish Stock Exchange last night, came after IN&M put out a statement claiming O'Brien's actions were "designed to destabilise the company" and that he was "not acting in the best interests of all stakeholders".
O'Reilly has bought a further 10m IN&M shares, priced at €1.86 each, at a total cost of €18.6m (£14.7m). The move means his stake in the Dublin-based company has increased from 26.68% to 27.94%.
Denis O'Brien, meanwhile, has been steadily increasing his stake in the company since 2006, and now holds a 22.15% stake.
The Irish billionaire, who owns mobile phone group Esat and radio group Communicorp, has argued that IN&M should sell off its loss-making UK national newspapers, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday.
IN&M's statement, published to coincide with the group's end-of-year results, marked the first time IN&M has publicly responded to O'Brien's attempts to grow his influence on the company.
Yesterday, the company said: "Since prematurely disclosing his initial investment in INM in 2006, Mr O'Brien has made a series of personalised, misleading and inaccurate attacks on the company, its board, management, strategy and governance."
O'Brien promptly responded, describing the statement as a "highly personal and unwarranted attack on the company's largest independent shareholder".
In its results yesterday, IN&M announced a 7.7% rise in pre-tax profits to €286m. UK revenue, which includes the Independent titles and the Belfast Telegraph, increased 18.3% to €268.1m.
Shares in IN&M closed last night up 8.7% at €1.87, giving the publisher a market capitalisation of around €1.45bn.
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