Black's Wife Billed Hollinger For Doorman's Tip

12 May 2004

Disgraced media tycoon Lord Conrad Black and his associates used Hollinger International as a milch cow, a 174 page law suit claims.

Black, his wife Barbara Amiel Black, former executive Daniel Colson and other associates reputedly diverted $391 million (€330m;£224m) or 72% of Hollinger's net income from 1997 to 2003 for themlseves.

Huge sums were allegedly used to fund the Black's extravagant personal lifestyle. Chefs, butlers, chauffeurs, as well as trips to Bora Bora on the company jet, were all paid for by Hollinger.

Black even charged the company $90,000 to refurbish a Rolls Royce. The smallest claim alleges that Black's wife billed Hollinger for a tip to the doorman at upmarket clothier Bergdorf Goodman.

The law suit focuses on four core allegations. First, that executives paid themselves exorbitant management fees.

Second, executives of loss-making Hollinger Digital, endorsed an illegal incentive scheme.

Third, that Black manipulated financial accounts over the sale of Hollinger newspapers to private companies he controlled.

Finally, executives benefited from illegal non-competition fees.

The lawsuit claims Black and his associates paid themselves $33.5m in management fees in 2003 for which they could have hired "the top five officers" at the Washington Post, Dow Jones and Knight Ridder "and had more that $5m left over". Black denies the claims.

The $1.25 billion lawsuit comes as bidders prepare to finalise their offers for Black's media empire.

According to reports, Germany's Axel Springer and US buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are the only two bidders still interested in the entire group which includes the Jerusalem Post, the Daily Telegraph and Chicago Sun-Times.

● Separately, former Hollinger director Peter Atkinson has reached a £1.6m repayment deal with the company.

Atkinson was one of the executives accused of receiving unauthorised handouts last November. He resigned as a director following the allegations, and is also standing down from the post of executive vice president.

Atkinson repaid £0.2m at the end of last year and has agreed to pay the remaining £1.4m he owes. As a result, his name was omitted from Hollinger's lawsuit.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff