Hollinger International says Black, wife have quit board

Former CEO, chairman target of fraud probes

June 03, 2005|By James P. Miller | James P. Miller,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Chicago Sun-Times parent Hollinger International Inc. has disclosed that Conrad Black - who was forced out as chief executive of the company amid a financial scandal 18 months ago - resigned yesterday from Hollinger's board of directors.

Although the board resignation severs his last link with the management of the company he once headed, Black remains the controlling stockholder of Hollinger International.

"His resignation is more symbolic than anything," said Eugene Fox, managing director of Cardinal Capital Management in Greenwich, Conn., which owns 1.5 million Hollinger International shares. "Any influence he may have had ended a long time ago."

In a one-sentence statement, the Chicago company said Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, had resigned as board members "effective immediately."

A spokeswoman confirmed that the two resignations reduce board membership at Hollinger to nine but declined any additional comment.

The reason for Black's resignation wasn't immediately clear, although the day before, the Canadian-born investor suffered a legal setback in a Hollinger-related court case in Toronto.

Black faces several civil lawsuits and is the target of a federal criminal investigation, all in connection with a scandal that began to emerge in 2003.

At that time, Black was chairman and chief executive of Hollinger International. After an internal investigation turned up evidence suggesting Black and investing partner F. David Radler had been defrauding the company, Hollinger International's board forced Black out of the top job. The ousted chief executive later resigned as board chairman but remained a director.

The board sued Black and Radler, alleging that they had misappropriated about $400 million through various schemes.

The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the men, claiming that Black and Radler had "cheated and defrauded" Hollinger investors in violation of federal securities law.

The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago is investigating whether Black and Radler should also face criminal charges.

Both men have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Black maintains his voting control of Hollinger International through two holding companies based in Canada, and both of those companies have also become entangled in Black's legal troubles.

Canadian officials have named an accounting firm to conduct an investigation of Black's activities, but Black has resisted efforts to be interviewed by the firm, arguing that his answers might be used against him in the U.S. investigation.

On Wednesday, an Ontario judge dismissed that argument and ordered the 60-year-old Black to answer questions from the Canadian investigators.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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