Independent owner rejects O'Brien call for sale of Indy titles

LONDON - Dennis O'Brien, the second-biggest shareholder in Independent News & Media, has reignited his feud with the company by calling for a vote on the future of its UK-based Independent newspapers.

O'Brien: wants vote on future of Independent titles
O'Brien: wants vote on future of Independent titles

In response, INM said its "priority" is to deal with its ongoing financial restructuring adding that "it is difficult to see how Mr. O'Brien's actions assist in the resolution of the financial restructuring".

O'Brien, who owns 26% of the company, called for an extraordinary general meeting which among several issues would also consider stopping the sale of the company's South African outdoor assets.

He also wants a vote that would propose the sale or closure of its London-based Independent newspapers. And he wants INM to cease annual payments of €300,000 to former chief executive Anthony O'Reilly for his position as president emeritus of the group.

His intervention appears to have ended a six-month truce with INM that followed the retirement of O'Reilly as chief executive earlier this year.

In response to O'Brien, INM said that the sale or closure of its UK national newspapers "would carry significant guaranteed contractual costs"

And regards O'Brien's request to abandon the sale of the company's South African outdoor assets, INM said such a deal "is central" to its bid to refinance its debts.

INM said: "It is noted that Mr. O'Brien has unilaterally chosen to issue a statement this morning in advance of formal consideration of his request by the board of INM, which, as he has already been advised, has already been convened."

Last week, INM said it persuaded creditors holding €200m of bonds and its banks to give it another month to renegotiate its debts.

A financial standstill for the bonds, originally due to be paid back in May, has been extended from 27 August until 25 September.

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