[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Hollinger executives 'took $400m'
Former Hollinger International chief executive Conrad Black
Lord Black stepped down as Hollinger chief in November
Hollinger International has said former executives, led by ex-chief Conrad Black, took $400m (223m) of its money.

Unveiling the findings of an internal investigation, Hollinger said the sum accounted for 95.2% of its adjusted net income between 1997 and 2003.

It said Lord Black and others "made it their business to line their pockets in almost every way they could devise".

Lord Black's office described the allegations as "exaggerated claims laced with outright lies".

It also called the 14-month-long internal investigation "futile".

"These issues will ultimately be resolved in the courts where the facts and the evidence will exonerate the men and women who are being attacked in this report," it said in a statement.

Looting

The Hollinger investigation focused on unauthorised payments allegedly received by Lord Black and other executives.

An initial inquiry into the affair led to Lord Black's resignation as Hollinger chief executive in November 2003.

The company was systematically manipulated and used by its controlling shareholders for their sole benefit
Hollinger International report

In May this year, Hollinger sued Lord Black and his associates, accusing them of pocketing large sums without approval, and treating the company "as a cash cow to be milked".

Lord Black has strongly denied the allegations set out in the lawsuit, and has countersued the company.

The latest report spells out the same allegations in more detail, saying the company was "systematically manipulated and used by its controlling shareholders for their sole benefit, and in a manner that violated every concept of fiduciary duty".

It described the withdrawal of funds from the company as "aggressive looting" and "a corporate kleptocracy" designed to fund the personal lifestyle of Lord Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black.

Birthday dinner

Among the items recorded were the lease of a Gulfstream IV jet, which cost $3m-4m a year between 2000 and 2003.

Ms Amiel Black was also singled out in the report for allegedly enjoying a lavish lifestyle at the company's expense.

Among items purchased were handbags worth $2,463, silverware worth $3,530 for the Black's corporate jet, and a 'Happy Birthday Barbara' dinner at a New York restaurant costing $42,870.

A further $90,000 was spent refurbishing a Rolls Royce for Lord Black's personal use.

Fighting back

Lord Black's office said that some of the payments criticised in the latest Hollinger report had been "explicitly approved" by the company's board of directors and audit committee.

BBC Business Editor Jeff Randall said: "Just when Lord Black thought things could not get any worse, they did.

"But... Lord Black is fighting back, saying this bitter row would end up in the court - and on that Hollinger agree."

Hollinger International owns a string of newspapers worldwide, including the Chicago Sun Times and the Jerusalem Post.

Last month, it sold its flagship publications, the UK-based Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, to billionaire financiers the Barclay brothers.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Jeff Randall
"Wall Street investors have been shocked by the scale and detail of these claims against Black"



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific