Hollinger Executives 'Foot-dragging', Shareholders Accuse

14 November 2005

Hollinger International's long-suffering band of shareholders still await the promised cleanup of the company's affairs in the wake of the enforced departures of chairman/ceo Lord Conrad Black and his henchmen.

The complainants have expressed extreme disquiet that many of the remaining directors were appointed by Black and could "have their own reasons for stalling".

Gripes Bert Denton, president of Hollinger stockholder Providence Capital, and advisor to two other large Hollinger shareholders, Tweedy Browne of New York and Cardinal Capital Management: "The old board is conflicted in terms of getting this thing cleaned up."

Denton's finger points at Hollinger's triple-hatted current chairman/president/ceo Gordon Paris and his boardroom colleagues, alleging they are dragging their feet over the cleanup of Hollinger's murky affairs while enjoying self-voted generous salaries.

Other shareholders agree, among them Jennifer Wallace of Summit Street Capital, who points out that Paris received $2.8 million in cash in the 2004 fiscal. He and other directors "should immediately renegotiate the overly generous and misaligned compensation arrangement," she says.

In mitigation, Raymond Seitz, chairman of the Hollinger executive committee, claims that Paris's 2005 contract reflects the "unusual circumstances of the job". He defended Paris's performance. "We are making progress," said Seitz .

But the lips of Gordon Paris - a longstanding colleague of Lord Black - remain firmly zipped on the twin issues of his remuneration and the tortoise-like pace of progress.

Stockholders are demanding that the company presents a fresh crop of directors for election at its annual meeting in January. Seitz, however, declined to comment on the issue.

Meantime, Black, who faces civil fraud charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly diverting funds from the company, awaits a likely second knock on his door from the US Justice Department.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff