One can only wonder if the threatened closure of the London Independent newspapers, is a ruse to deflect attention away from a scandal involving non-executive director Brian Mulroney? Readers will remember that Independent, which publishes South Africa’s Star and Cape Argus, is in the process of being restructured amidst a controversy which refuses to go away.
Denis O’Brien, the telecoms billionaire who most recently bailed out the group has introduced a resolution calling on shareholders to stop a €100,000 annual payment to a company owned by Mulroney. Mulroney is under investigation by the Canadian police because of a bribery and kickbacks scandal involving German arms-dealer Karlheinz Schrieber.
O’Brien has also called on shareholders to cancel a €300,000 annual payment to former chief executive Sir Anthony O’Reilly in respect of his position as president emeritus of the firm. The current board under Hillary says O’Reilly is not entitled under contract to such a payment, but will argue that the resolution is moot.
The company’s board, on which O’Brien has minority representation, is also likely to refuse to put to the AGM O’Brien’s call for a detailed schedule of all board member expenses since the start of 2000 to be prepared by a firm of independent accountants and circulated to all shareholders.
There was no comment from O’Brien, the marauding minority shareholder who is apparently also seeking at the AGM to remove company chairman Brian Hillary and to replace senior independent director Baroness Margaret Jay, a tory conservative. One can only hope shareholders will come to their senses and realise the O’Reilly dynasty is over and the only way to save the company is to move on with doing business, which is about printing newspapers, not investing in Wedgewood crystal, 18 Century Mansions and chandeliers.