A SIMMERING dispute within one of Australia's top 200 companies has burst into the public arena with outdoor advertising veteran Pierce Cody quitting the board of APN News & Media over "governance concerns".
But APN rejected the accusations and countered that Mr Cody had left because he had not been appointed to the group's planned $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 firm and key stakeholders last night. Mr Cody said after ten years on the board, and more than 16 years involvement with the company, he was resigning.
"Unfortunately, I have found it necessary to resign due to unresolved concerns I have had with some ongoing areas of corporate governance," he said.
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 the chief executive of APN's Dublin shareholder Independent News & Media.
APN, which announces its results today, dismissed the concerns. "There is no basis to question the corporate governance at APN," an APN spokesman 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 outrage at APN's response, saying he "aggressively rebutted" their comments.
His 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.
Like most of the media industry, APN has been struggling with a challenging advertising market. Its share price closed 2? lower yesterday at 82?.