Ex-Governor Thomson Refuses to Quit Hollinger Board

12 August 2004

Defiant in the face of accusations by a major Hollinger International [H-Intl] shareholder that he 'enabled' unauthorised payments to the company's former chairman, H-Intl director James Thompson says he will not step down from the board.

Thompson, one-time governor of the state of Illinois, has been named by H-Intl's largest institutional shareholder Tweedy Browne, which accuses that he and other group directors allowed ex-chairman Lord Conrad Black and allied executives to divert into their own keeping nearly $400 million (€327.28m; £218.82m) rightly due to the company and its shareholders.

These and other charges are currently under investigation by a special committee of H-Intl's board, which was tasked in 2003 with investigating the legitimacy of these payments. The committee's report is due to be published by the end of next week.

Thompson served as chairman of H-Intl's audit, compensation and stock option committees during His Lordship's reign and, according to a recent newspaper report, is involved with other H-Intl directors in negotiations about a $100m settlement with the company.

However, the ex-governor, now chairman of law firm Winston & Strawn, refutes the press story, adding that he has not yet seen the committee's final report into the affair.

He continues to insist that the H-Intl board approved the fees "based on what [we] were told" by Black and other directors. "I'm not planning to step down," he added. "I have never been asked to step down."

Other members of the accommodating audit committee during Black's regime were the quondam US ambassador to Germany Richard R Burt and Marie-Josée Kravis, an economist and wife of corporate raider Henry Kravis.

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