O'Reilly Jnr may be clearing way for Net-savvy leadership

The surprise announcement that Cameron O'Reilly will leave the helm of Australia's APN News and Media may be linked to a desire to bring more Internet-friendly leadership to the Independent Newspapers stable in the region.

The surprise announcement that Cameron O'Reilly will leave the helm of Australia's APN News and Media may be linked to a desire to bring more Internet-friendly leadership to the Independent Newspapers stable in the region, which includes Wilson and Horton.

O'Reilly, the son of Independent Newspapers founder Tony O'Reilly, stood down last month as chairman of Wilson and Horton. He has now announced that he will step down as CEO of APN in June. He will return to Europe to be involved in the O'Reilly family's private business interests.

The Irish Times, which reported the surprise announcement on Monday to the APN Board, noted that O'Reilly had given no hint of his plans in an interview with the Financial Times this month.

He admitted in the FT interview that the newspaper market is "going through something of an identity crisis" as it faces competition from online news and publishers - but argued that newspapers would be around for a long time to come.

O'Reilly has advanced similar themes in speeches in New Zealand, declaring last year that "the Internet is over-rated", and giving a keynote address at the recent Apec CEO Summit in which he acknowledged the huge changes being brought on by the Internet, but insisted that Internet users did not principally go online to find news, but to buy goods and services.

Independent Newspapers itself appears to have been making significant strides towards a more robust Internet strategy. This week, the group announced a move into delivering information for mobile Internet services in conjunction with Vodafone-Airtouch.

A statement said Independent Newspaper would introduce messaging services and voice-based products and services in the UK and would explore services here and in Australia. APN itself announced investments in mobile data and e-commerce companies in Australia and South Africa this week.

Wilson and Horton new media, the small unit that has produced the revamped New Zealand Herald site and its offshoots such as Stockwatch, has been on a hiring drive and is now thought to have as many as 18 staff - up from four earlier in the year. It has yet to announce its plans for the new staff.

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