Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

O'Reilly leaves Independent firm

Tony O'Reilly
Mr O'Reilly has been defending his position as majority stakeholder

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the chief executive of the publisher of The Independent newspaper, is to step down.

Sir Anthony, 72, has been involved with Independent News & Media for 36 years, and has a 28.6% stake in the group.

His son, Gavin O'Reilly, who joined the business 16 years ago, will take over the role from 7 May.

The group publishes more than 200 newspapers and magazines across 22 countries. It owns about 40% of Australia's APN News & Media.

In addition to Sir Anthony's departure, the company's board will be revamped, with new people being brought in, but the size of the board being cut to 10 members from 17.

Board revamp

Sir Anthony has been fending off attempts by the wealthiest man in the Irish Republic, Denis O'Brien, to take more control of the group, which also includes the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph.

But Mr O'Brien - who has a 26% stake in the group - welcomed the reforms.

"I believe these changes represent the beginning of a new era at Independent News & Media and one that brings with it challenges which cannot be underestimated," Mr O'Brien said.

The company current has debts of 1.4bn euros ($1.8bn; £1.3bn) and must repay a 200m euro bond in May.

There has been much speculation over the future of the The Independent newspaper, which has cut 90 editorial jobs and is moving into the Daily Mail offices in London in order to save money.

When asked whether the company had any plans to sell The Independent, Gavin O'Reilly told the BBC, "not at this stage".

He said the move into the Daily Mail building would save £10m a year, "so we get pretty close to achieving our objective of making sure that all our assets make a contribution".

'Significant leader'

The group's chairman, Brian Hillery said Sir Anthony's retirement marked "one of the most remarkable executive careers in Irish history".

"Tony has been a significant business leader for more than 45 years and has been a key figure in the making of modern Ireland. Tony can be immensely proud that from modest beginnings 36 years ago, he has helped to build a truly global communications business."

He added that Gavin O'Reilly was "an important thought-leader in the international media industry".

"While we face economic conditions which are more challenging than at any time in 60 years and I am comforted by the strength of our individual franchises and by the drive, energy and vision that Gavin will bring to his new role."

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