CHICAGO: The jury at the fraud and racketeering trial of Lord Conrad Black and three former associates has heard how the fallen media baron dismissed Hollinger International investors' concerns at alleged boardroom excess as "an outbreak of shareholder idiocy".
Prosecutors allege Black and executives John Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis pocketed $60m (€45m; £30.6m) in "non-compete" fees from the sale of hundreds of the publisher's local papers across the US and Canada.
These payments, says the government, belonged to Hollinger shareholders and not to the executives.
In emails read out to the court, Black branded the worries of the largest shareholder, investment firm Tweedy Brown, as "sanctimony" and "hysteria", adding: "We don't want to have a large institutional shareholder . . . hopping about in such an agitated and indiscreet state."
Tweedy Brown's 'agitation' resulted in the appointment of investment banker Gordon Paris to carry out an independent investigation - which eventually led to Black's ousting as chairman/ceo.
His defence team's tactic has been to paint him as the victim. Lawyer Ed Genson, claimed in court that his client had his company stolen from him by money-grabbing opportunists who concocted criminal allegations to unseat him. He also insisted that Black knew of nothing amiss with non-compete payments.
For its part, the prosecution questioned Hollinger treasurer Craig Holick. He said he was told to transfer a $2m non-compete payment from Hollinger International to Black's holding company, Hollinger Inc.
Former Primedia executive Peter Laino testified that a similar deal, paid when his company bought a magazine title from Hollinger, was intended for International, not for Inc.
The trial continues.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff