O’Reilly’s house of cards is shaking

Time magazine November 2007

We will have a completely different type of Waterford. Waterford Wedgwood will be a very profitable business in eight to 12 months.

This was Tony O’Reilly’s prediction to the prestigious Time magazine, along with a bullish claim that the newspaper industry was “growing quite slowly, but it is growing.”

Now the predictions have turned to sand.

“Problems at Waterford Wedgwood come at a unfortunate time for Sir Anthony, who is also grappling with €1.4 billion of debts at Independent News & Media (IN&M), his ( separate) media group. Although the two companies are entirely separate, both are under pressure, with IN&M trying to offload its Australian business to reduce debts.”

No one can say that the boss of Irish and UK Independent newspapers including the Belfast Telegraph, ducks a challenge. But with cost-cutting proceeding apace, is the time coming close for predator Denis O’Brien to strike or form an unholy alliance with O’Reilly? The odds on a sale even of shrinking cash cow the Belfast Telegraph must gradually be shortening, as O’Reilly’s house of cards, already fragile before the onslaught of recession, starts to wobble.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London