Lord Conrad Black's use of the US Constitution's Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying to the Securities and Exchange Commission [WAMN: 23-Dec-03] has not gone down well with Hollinger International's board of directors, it seems.

Black, who last month 'took the Fifth' against self-incrimination, claimed he did so because he had been granted insufficient time to prepare for the SEC's questioning. But according to an unnamed Hollinger insider, the company's board now believes Black's position as chairman to be untenable if he continues to use the US constitution as a shield.

Thus far, however, no formal request to step down has been made of His Lordship. Meantime, following intensive weekend discussions, a lapsed agreement between Black and the board has been reinstated.

This prevents the peer from selling Hollinger Incorporated, the labyrinthine, cash-starved holding company through which Black -- although a minority shareholder -- wields control of his newspaper publishing empire.

Talks are continuing in the hope of finding a permanent way out of the quagmire. But few onlookers can envisage a solution that will see Black retaining control of -- or continuing to play an executive role within -- either company.

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