Hollinger Board Seeks Alternatives to Twins' Offer

21 January 2004

SEC Will Not Oppose Barclay Brothers' Bid

The board of Hollinger International (H-Intl), the operational arm of Lord Conrad Black's labyrinthine publishing empire, met Tuesday to consider its options following Black's putative sale for $466.5 million (€377.13m; £259.76m) of his controlling stake in parent company Hollinger Incorporated (H-Inc) to Press Holdings International of the UK.

H-Intl's response was to set up a special committee -- excluding Black and his wife Barbara Amiel -- to conduct a strategic review of possible buyers. It authorised investment bank Lazard to invite indicative offers and sign confidentiality clauses with potential bidders for assets, including Britain's Daily and Sunday Telegraphs.

The review will not rule out the deal struck between Black and the Gormenghastian Barclay twins, who run their publishing, hotel and retail empire from a fortified private offshore tax haven between the UK and France. The twins have already held preliminary talks with Lazard.

Tuesday's meeting also ratified the board's weekend decision to fire Black as chairman. It also reiterated its claim (disputed by Black) that he and others received large sums of money without the approval of the board. H-Intl last week filed a lawsuit against H-Inc, Black and other executives to recover $200 million in fees and other payments.

Meantime, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which is currently conducting an investigation into the affairs of Black's media group, intimated it would not oppose the sale of H-Inc to the Barclay brothers unless the change of ownership interfered with its inquiries.

The SEC revealed last week it had obtained a federal court order against H-Intl, which is listed in the US. The order seeks to protect the integrity of investigations by preventing Lord Black from impairing the work of H-Intl's special committee, led by former SEC chairman Richard Breeden.

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