“[We] aren’t giving back one cent … the idea that there is anything improper about it is horse feathers,” snapped Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour, the Canadian-born newspaper tycoon who in 2002 renounced his citizenship to accept a British peerage along with the commercial advantages nobility confers.
His Lordship was referring to more than $73 million (€61.83m; £44.55m) in ‘non-competition’ and other fees pocketed by himself his wife and a handful of other boardroom honchos for agreeing not to compete with the assets Hollinger International sold to Canadian media conglomerate Can-West in 2000.
This cosy arrangement has been challenged by Tweedy Browne, a US investment company that owns almost 18% of Hollinger stock [WAMN: 22-May-03]. Tweedy threatens a lawsuit unless the money is returned to Hollinger shareholders to whom, it believes, such largesse rightly and legally belongs.
Insists Black: “There is no question whatsoever of a legal problem.” As witnesses for his defence the peer cites each of Hollinger’s independent directors, which body of the great and good include Henry A Kissinger, Richard A Perle and [at the time of the deal] that upright icon of corporate probity A Alfred Taubman, the former Sotheby’s chairman who was released from federal prison last week.
All, said Black, had been “satisfied” with this enriching arrangement and any rethink would be “a complete turnround on what [Hollinger’s board] said up to now”. But if Tweedy Browne persisted in its demand that the cash be returned, “we will rely on the judicial system”.
Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff