By: Audrey Woods, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Publisher Conrad Black, involved in a struggle over his newspaper empire, has been dismissed as chairman of Telegraph Group, the group’s owner said Monday.
Black will no longer play an executive part in the Telegraph Group — The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine. Hollinger International’s other newspapers include the Chicago Sun-Times and Jerusalem Post.
“The board of directors of the Telegraph Group terminated Lord Black’s employment contract,” said Jeremy Fielding, a spokesman for Hollinger International Inc., the Chicago-based company in which Black has a controlling interest.
The board of the London-based newspaper group took the action Friday, said Molly Morse, a spokeswoman for Hollinger International.
Black’s spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Fielding said the decision came as a direct result of a ruling last month by a U.S. judge who said Black was in breach of his duties to Hollinger International.
On Feb. 27, Judge Leo Strine in Delaware blocked Black’s plan to sell control of Hollinger International to the Barclay brothers of Britain, saying Black consistently breached his duties to the company.
Strine threw out Black’s attempts to change the bylaws of Hollinger International in a way that would have tightened his control of the board of directors. Strine also upheld defensive measures the company took to block the deal with the Barclays.
The brothers had offered $316 million for Black’s stake in Toronto-based Hollinger Inc., the company he uses to control Hollinger International Inc.
Strine found that the Barclays deal would prevent the company from realizing the benefits of the formal sale process that Black had agreed to support.
Press Holdings International Ltd., the investment vehicle of the Barclay brothers, said on March 2 that it had withdrawn its offer. No reason was given, but a spokesman said they continued to keep their options open regarding the situation at Hollinger International.
A number of trade and financial buyers have submitted bids for the Telegraph Group to Lazard LLC, which was hired in November to review the company’s strategic alternatives. It was unclear how the investment bank plans to proceed following Strine’s decision.
Minority shareholders in Hollinger International raised questions last year about millions of dollars in payments that Black and his associates received, which the shareholders say should have gone to the company.
An internal investigation found Black and others received $32 million in payments that hadn’t been approved by the company’s independent directors, contrary to statements in the company’s regulatory filings.