March 24, 2018 / 10:43 PM / a month ago

Corporate watchdog to appoint inspectors to Ireland's largest newspaper group

DUBLIN, March 24 (Reuters) - Ireland’s corporate watchdog intends to apply to the High Court to appoint inspectors to investigate Independent News & Media (INM), Ireland’s largest newspaper group said on Saturday.

Ireland’s Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) began an investigation into INM following a clash between the company’s then chief executive and chairman in 2016 over the terms of a possible acquisition of Irish radio station Newstalk.

Newstalk’s parent group Communicorp is owned by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, INM’s largest shareholder with a stake of 29.9 percent.

INM, which owns Ireland’s highest selling daily and Sunday newspapers, said discussions on the possible acquisition ended at a preliminary stage and it was never considered by the board.

Local media subsequently reported that then CEO Robert Pitt made a protected disclosure under whistleblower legislation about the circumstances surrounding the proposed bid, prompting the ODCE’s investigation.

INM said it had been informed that the ODCE will make an application to the court on April 16 for the appointment of an investigator, adding that it was taking legal advice as to whether the court would have sufficient grounds to do so.

“The board and the company’s management remain fully focused on the business and ensuring that the day-to-day operations are conducted as normal. However, the appointment, if made, could result in the company incurring material costs,” INM said in a statement. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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