Hollinger Fires Black As Peer Sells Parent to Barclay Twins

19 January 2004

It's been quite a weekend for Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour.

Beleaguered by creditors, probed by US regulators, sacked on Saturday by his boardroom colleagues, the Hollinger empire primed to implode around his ears … the cash-strapped newspaper tycoon has at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute sold Hollinger Incorporated, the investment vehicle through whose Byzantine preferential share structure he controls his newspaper publishing edifice.

On Sunday Canadian-born Black, who renounced his nationality to accept a peerage in Britain's House of Lords, agreed the sale of Hollinger Inc for $466.5 million (€377.13m; £259.76m) to the reclusive British twin brothers, Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay .

But despite the handshakes, the deal is very far from being inked.

Not only is it opposed by the board committee now running Hollinger International (the operating company that owns such respected titles as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and the UK's Daily and Sunday Telegraph), a further barrier has been erected by America's Securities and Exchange Commission, which on Friday obtained a federal court order against Black and his holding company.

This compels the peer to "preserve" Hollinger International's corporate assets and protect the authority of an internal Hollinger inquiry into the group. In addition, the financial watchdog filed a civil injunctive complaint alleging that from 1999 to 2001 Hollinger "filings contained mis-statements and omitted to state material facts regarding transfers of corporate assets".

And in a separate suit Hollinger International itself seeks to recover over $200 million from His Lordship, his holding company (Hollinger Inc) and former chief operating officer David Radler.

On the other side of the pond, the reclusive Barclays once again find themselves reluctantly thrust into the limelight. They are said to venture rarely from their £60 million island fortress on the remote Channel Island of Brecquou.

From which vantage point they have accumulated an impressive array of assets including four newspapers: The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh Evening News (all in Scotland) and The Business (across the UK).

Plus London’s Ritz Hotel, retail chain Littlewoods Stores, and a major mail order empire operating under the Littlewoods and Shop Direct (formerly GUS) brands.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff