Black Hole Swallows Hollinger Website

11 February 2004

The Hollinger International [H-Intl] website has vanished into a black hole in cyberspace after debt-beset proprietor Lord Conrad Black cut the current for reasons nebulous.

The Blackout was triggered by Ravelston Corporation, the close-knit holding device through which the peer provided management services to H-Intl for a modest fee of up to $38 million (€29.90m; £20.35m) annually.

Ravelston ceased hosting the site this earlier this week and surfers were greeted with the standard "page cannot be found" web message. The ostensible reason, given by a Black spokesman: "It was a service that was … provided by Ravelston, and because [H-Intl] is in arrears, Ravelston has stopped providing this service."

H-Intl stopped payments of management fees to Ravelston in November, coincident with Black's ousting as the company's chief executive. At the same time the peer agreed to repay $7.2 million in allegedly 'unauthorised' payments. Black, however, later repudiated that agreement.

H-Intl has moved promptly to reinstate the site at, while "seeking to reclaim" the domain name. [The new domain was equally non-available when WAMN tried Tuesday night.]

• Separately, the Barclay twins, would-be buyers of Black's controlling stake in H-Intl (held by Hollinger Incorporated [H-Inc] which owns just 30% of H-Intl but 73% of its voting rights) have pulled out of the legal battle about to be fought in the Delaware chancery court.

Press Holdings International, the Barclays' media edifice, earlier this month made a 'file under seal' to the court allowing it to participate in the case for a change in Hollinger's by-laws, enabling Black to proceed with the sale to the Barclays.

The motive underlying the gothic pair's sudden withdrawal is far from clear -- and few are convinced by the reason given by a Barclays' insider: "By withdrawing we are showing we are happy with the way the trial is likely to proceed, and no longer need to be represented."

Data sourced from: Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff