A SIMMERING dispute within of one of Australia's top 200 companies has burst into the public arena, with Australian outdoor advertising veteran Pierce Cody quitting the board over "governance concerns" at the media group.
APN categorically denied the accusations and countered that Mr Cody had left because he had not been appointed to the group's planned new $200 million outdoor joint venture with Quadrant Private Equity.
In an extraordinary move for a company director, Mr Cody went public with his concerns in a statement emailed to the company and key stakeholders last night. Mr Cody said that after
10 years on the board, and more than 16 years' involvement with the company, he was resigning, effective immediately.
"Unfortunately I have found it necessary to resign due to unresolved concerns I have had with some ongoing areas of corporate governance," he said in the statement.
Mr Cody has had a long and close relationship with Irish media moguls the O'Reilly family, making the split even more noteworthy. (Gavin O'Reilly has chaired APN since 2004, and is chief executive of APN's Dublin-based major shareholder, Independent News & Media.)
"I must stress that I fully support the endeavours of the management team under the stewardship of the well-regarded chief executive officer, Brett Chenoweth.
"I hope this team can navigate their way through these challenging times,
and take advantage of
the exciting opportunities out there in the market," Mr Cody said.
But APN, which announces its results today, dismissed the concerns.
"There is no basis to question the corporate governance at APN," an APN spokesperson said. "The real reason regarding Mr Cody's
departure is related to the fact he didn't get the role he thought he should have, in the expanded
outdoor joint venture."
Mr Cody declined to comment
further last night other than to express his outrage at APN's response, saying he "aggressively rebutted" their response.
Mr Cody's resignation follows rumblings in recent months about the level of board involvement in the management of the company, including unconfirmed reports that management moves to write down the value of assets were watered down by sections of the board.
One observer questioned whether there would be more resignations, but an APN spokesman insisted the issue was isolated.
A corporate governance expert described Mr Cody's decision to go public as a rare but welcome move.
Like most companies in the media industry, APN has been struggling to overcome a challenging advertising market, with its share price
struggling at record lows.
The shares closed 2? lower
yesterday at 82?.