Debt and democracy are not common bedfellows. But it may be that the former will lead to the latter so far as governance of Hollinger Incorporated is concerned.
The vehicle through which Lord Conrad Black and a handful of close colleagues control Hollinger – publisher of such choice media properties as Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times in the US, plus the Jerusalem Post and International Jerusalem Post in Israel – is Ravelston Management, a privately held company in which Black pulls the strings.
Ravelston, which owns 80% of the debt-beset Hollinger, announced yesterday it plans to issue a block of new preference shares in the latter to a single institutional investor, as yet unidentified.
The move will effectively dilute the stakes of Hollinger’s existing shareholders – among them the troublesome New York investment firm Tweedy Browne which is suing Hollinger over the payment of third party monies to Black and his associates which, it contends, rightly belong to shareholders.
It is unlikely that Tweedy and other Hollinger shareholders will react to the dilution of their Hollinger stakes with whoops of joy. But they may feel this a price worth paying if it loosens the iron grip on the group currently exercised by Black.
But the noble Lord made it clear through Hollinger vice-president Dan Coulson that he will not relinquish overall command of his media fiefdom. Said Coulson Monday: “There is no intention to give up control of Hollinger ... we [Ravelston] would not go below 51%.”
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff