Independent News and Media chief executive Anthony O’Reilly has announced he will step down from the company in May and will be replaced by his son, Gavin.
In a statement this morning, the Independent publisher said Sir Anthony would retire on his 73rd birthday on 7 May after 36 years in charge.
Gavin O’Reilly, currently INM’s chief operating officer, has been appointed chief executive-designate with immediate effect and will take the role on a permanent basis when his father retires.
“Tony can be immensely proud that from modest beginnings 36 years ago, he has helped to build a truly global communications business,” said INM chairman Brian Hillery.
“When Tony first invested in a local Irish newspaper operation back in 1973, it had a turnover of â‚¬12m.
“From that starting point, he immediately applied – with his colleagues – his flair, vision and enormous energy to create a â‚¬1.5 billion worldwide communications group.
“Gavin has immersed himself in the business since joining the company 16 years ago.
“He is an important thought-leader in the international media industry as evidenced by his presidency of the World Association of Newspapers and is focused on further expanding INM’s diverse multimedia platforms.”
O’Reilly senior is INM’s largest shareholder, with a 28.5 per cent stake. He said he would continue to support the publisher “in the furtherance of its strategy”.
INM also announced today that it was trimming its executive board from 17 directors to 10 – a move that has been welcomed by the company’s second biggest shareholder, Denis O’Brien.
O’Brien had been at loggerheads with the INM board about its strategic direction, and has frequently called for the Independent titles in the UK to be sold.
“Those comments have to be put in proper perspective,” Gavin O’Reilly told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.
“This was at a time when Denis and ourselves weren’t talking to each other. We’ve spent the last five months working with Denis.”
Asked if the Independent titles, which this week announced 20 compulsory redundancies, were up for sale, he said: “Not at this stage. Certainly the Independent has a future.”
INM’s market value has dropped more than 97 per cent in the past two years, with its share price down from a high of â‚¬3.85 (£3.54) to â‚¬0.10 (9p) yesterday.
By 9am today, shares were up 52 per cent on yesterday’s closing price at â‚¬ 0.16 (15p), giving the group a market capitalisation of â‚¬134.4m (£123.6m).