Independent News & Media plc (INM) is a media organisation based in Dublin, Ireland with interests in 22 countries on 4 continentsworldwide. The company owns over 200 print titles, more than 130 radio stations, over 100 commercial websites and many billboard locations, and is a leading press player in five countries. The INM group of companies has been dominated by Tony O'Reilly, today CEO, and his family (one of his sons is COO and two others are non-executive directors), since 1973.
There have been controversies about the extent of the company's media holdings in Ireland, its influence on politics, the role and cost of its dominant personality, its tabloid approach and its cost-cutting "yellow pack journalism" management tactics, as well as aggressive accounting techniques, notably around minority-owned but consolidated profitable APN and the majority-owned but unconsolidated loss-making Sunday Tribune.
In 1973 Sir Tony O'Reilly acquired 100% of the "A" shares of the company from the Murphy and Chance families, and was later forced to bid for the "B" (non-voting) shares. The company was later floated on the Irish Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange.
The group expanded overseas, acquiring interests in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
In 1999, the company name was changed to Independent News and Media plc. While the O'Reilly family and close allies still have a controlling interest (over 29.5% at July 2008), their shareholding is being diluted and a significant shareholding is being built by Irish entrepreneur, Denis O'Brien (over 27% at May 2008). 5% of the holding company is held by Clear Channel Communications, transferred in return for control of a South African outdoor advertising firm.
In 1993, the group bought into the Sunday Tribune, in which it now owns 98% of the issued share capital and over which it has considerable influence. As INM technically only holds 29.9% of voting shares and so lacks management control, it does not consolidate the results of the Tribune, which is loss-making, with accumulated losses of around 45 million euro since acquisition.
Some INM titles, especially the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent, are perceived to have a pro-British slant by republicans, and also by a growing number of their ordinary readership who are unhappy with the range and frequency of news stories and opinion columns emanating from British titles such as The Daily Telegraph.
For many years, the main printing facility was in Abbey St. in Dublin but this is now at Citywest.
The Independent (of London) was bought for around 100 million euro in 1997 and has been loss-making throughout, with accumulated losses of at least 150 million euro.
The Belfast Telegraph Group was bought for around 400 million euro in 2001, and is highly profitable, making perhaps 30 million euro annually.
On 12 February 2007, INM announced that the board of APN had recommended an all-cash revised offer of A$ 6.10 per share for the entire issued share capital of APN. The subsequent bid to take APN News & Media Ltd private in May 2007 was unsuccessful.
There have also been questions about APN, which was acquired in transactions involving both the group and the O'Reilly family, and profited the latter greatly, and about the massive level of group debt (over 1.3 billion euro). Furthermore, there have been complaints about the level of power of the O'Reilly family, the independence or otherwise of the board, and about the costs of O'Reilly as CEO, with second-largest shareholder Denis O'Brien and others having noted travel costs from O'Reilly's primary home in the Bahamas, company payments towards his now second home in Kilcullen, near Dublin, on top of large salary and other contributions. This type of issue has been further highlighted by the attempts by management to cut staff costs, pressing some to leave and "outsourcing" sub-editing and other key operations, in what is feared to be "yellow-pack" journalism.
Concern has also been expressed about INM's dominant role in the Irish press sector, its overall media power, its influence on politics, and the quality of its journalism, especially in the gossip and "commentary"-led Sunday Independent.