Yet more bad news for embattled newspaper tycoon Lord Conrad Black, as a key ally quits the Hollinger Incorporated board.
Peter Atkinson has decided for "personal reasons" to step down as a director of the firm which Black chairs. He remains vice-president of its subsidiary Hollinger International, owner of newspapers such as Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and Jerusalem Post.
Atkinson was previously a director of Hollinger International as well. He left that post in November when a special committee of directors probing the company's finances claimed that he, Black and fellow executive David Radler had received millions of dollars in non-compete fees that had not been approved by the board.
Atkinson's decision to leave the parent company's boardroom is a blow to Black, who now looks increasingly isolated as he tries to fend off allegations of financial mismanagement.
The peer has until Sunday to begin repaying the non-compete fees. Atkinson and Radler have already made their first instalments.
• Meantime, Hollinger shareholder Tweedy Browne -- whose pressure helped force Black to set up the special committee -- has again hit out at the exorbitant payments made to senior executives.
"If this was a cow, there wouldn't be an udder that wasn't sore," declared Christopher Browne, managing director of the investment fund. "Nothing surprises me now."
His comments come amid reports that the special committee is now focusing on payments made to Black's wife, Barbara Amiel [WAMN: 14-Jan-04].
Lady Black -- who in 2002 famously told Vogue magazine: "My extravagance knows no bounds" -- received $276,000 (€218,278; £150,489) from the Chicago Sun-Times last year. However, the Chicago Tribune (doubtless gleeful at the troubles of its crosstown rival) claims she has not visited the paper's buildings for four and a half years.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff