IndieNews chair expects to be voted off

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Avusa newspaper

Independent News & Media chairman James Osborne expects to lose his place on the board, after the publishing group's largest shareholder Denis O'Brien voted against his re-election as a director.

Telecoms billionaire O'Brien has been consolidating his control over the company since rival Gavin O'Reilly stepped down as chief executive in April. He increased his stake in the group to 29.9 percent last month.

O'Reilly's departure ended his family's 30-year control of Ireland's largest media company and years of bitter squabbling between O'Brien and the O'Reilly family.

Osborne, appointed last October by O'Reilly, opened his first annual general meeting as chairman by saying it may be his last and after seeing a representative for O'Brien raise his hand against his re-election.

“I do notice that one shareholder voted against me so that probably spells the end of my chairmanship,” Osborne said ahead of the results which are expected to be released at around 18:00 SA time.

In a statement read out by his representative, O'Brien said that the company needed radical restructuring. He added, however, that new chief executive Vincent Crowley, promoted from chief operating officer after O'Reilly's resignation, had his total confidence.

A representative for fellow billionaire shareholder Dermot Desmond, who controls 6.3 percent of the company, also spoke against Osborne.

Some shareholders spoke of their dismay at events during a five-year period where the company's share price has fallen from a high of 27.09 euros to 0.26 euro on Friday.

“I would like to express my sadness at what appears to outsiders to be a bun fight between two rich men which is bringing a damn good company and a company I have worked for all my life to a level that I certainly am embarrassed about,” said Michael Nolan, a shareholder and employee of 41 years. - Reuters

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