APN News & Media chairman Gavin O'Reilly has stepped down from the board as part of an exit from Irish parent Independent News & Media.

O'Reilly quit as chief executive of INM, Ireland's biggest newspaper company, after reaching a compromise agreement with the board amid pressure from dissident shareholder Denis O'Brien, who owns a 22 per cent stake.

INM chief operating officer Vincent Crowley will immediately replace O'Reilly, the company said in a statement. The deal will also see O'Reilly resign as chairman of APN, which publishes the New Zealand Herald newspaper and nzherald.co.nz.

"It had become clear that recent and public shareholder tensions were proving an unnecessary distraction for both me and the company, and this was not in the best interests of the company," O'Reilly said.


"The board and I agreed that what the company needs now is a board, management team and shareholder base that is purposefully unified and aligned for the company's immediate challenges and for the many opportunities that exist," he said.

O'Reilly took over the reins in 2009 from his father, Tony O'Reilly, as part of a peace deal with O'Brien who had been a vocal critic of the company's strategy.

The stake of the O'Reilly family, who first acquired the Irish Independent in 1973, was watered down to 13 per cent from almost 30 per cent after INM was forced to restructure after cutting a deal with bondholders to forgive almost a billion euros of debt.

His exit comes six months after INM chairman Brian Hillery was replaced with James Osbourne amid lobbying from shareholder O'Brien.

Crowley joined the company in 1990, and has previously led APN and INM's Irish unit.

Shares in INM rose 6.6 per cent to 24.3 euro cents on the Irish Stock Exchange. APN stock last traded on April 17 on the NZX at $1.05.