Yesterday an Irish dynasty came to a fairly sudden end. Within hours of a mystery buyer taking 2 per cent in Independent Newspapers, Gavin O’Reilly bowed out as Chief Executive of Independent Newspapers. It’s all change at the newspaper group, with Vincent Crowley stepping up to take on the job of Chief Executive but not it’s not yet clear where (if anywhere) the balance of power on the board now rests.
Interestingly on Twitter, Simon Kelner of the London Independent was glowing in his testimony for the ownership of the O’Reillys:
It always ends and it always ends badly. The sad demise of the O’Reilly newspaper dynasty. A family of huge integrity who believed in papers
— Simon Kelner (@Simon_Kelner) April 19, 2012
In fact there is a more generally warm sentiment left behind by the O’Reilly captaincy of the London Independent, along with a rather cooler view of Mr O’Brien whose interventions at board level is still resented even amongst the more junior levels of staff at the London title.
The general criticism made of the O’Reillys is that they were too late to the innovation game. Indeed, the London paper has been on a breakneck journey of innovation after just two years in the hands of Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, who has managed to cut operational losses by nearly 50% within his first 18 months.
Their departure raises the possibility of Denis O’Brien (the largest shareholder at 22%) making another move on Ireland’s biggest newspaper group. But Ciaran Hancock in the Irish Times doesn’t think it’s likely, just yet:
He may have gotten rid of O’Reilly but O’Brien has failed to gain control of the company, which many commentators presumed was his plan. Then again, perhaps that is the way he wants it. For now, at least.