A mandatory filing in New York on Monday revealed that Hollinger Incorporated – the ultimate holding company in Lord Conrad Black’s complex web of public and private interests – could be compelled to sell some of its assets to meet debt repayments over the year ahead.
As the parent company of Hollinger International, Hollinger Inc, is the ultimate owner of such choice properties as the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine in Britain, the Chicago Sun-Times and a large number of community newspapers in the US, plus the Jerusalem Post and International Jerusalem Post in Israel.
To meet its obligations Hollinger is relying upon $15 million (€13.74m; £9.54m) due from Ravelston Management, a privately-held company in which Lord Black owns 72.8% of the voting shares.
But following the filing of a lawsuit by one of Hollinger’s largest stockholders, New York investment firm Tweedy Browne, and a shareholder-instigated investigation into third-party payments made to directors, payment of this sum could be frozen.
The dissidents insist that monies running into millions of dollars, and which relate to non-compete deals struck between Black, CanWest and others, are the due of Hollinger shareholders, not Black’s privately-owned Ravelston.
Hollinger is unlikely to find the cash required if litigation and the shareholder inquiry delay the Ravelston payment. “If the company does not receive support payments of at least $15m for the twelve months ending June 30, 2004 … then it will be required to dispose of assets or seek financing in order to meet its non-consolidated obligations as they fall due,” said Monday’s filing.
Commented Black: “It is obvious that what is needed is a comprehensive refinancing of the holding company.” He declined, however, to offer chapter and verse on the timing, the source or the form of such financing.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff