Regulators May Lift Cease-Trading Order On Conrad Black Holding Co.

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Ontario Securities Commission Friday scheduled a public hearing to determine whether it should lift a nearly three-year-old order that prevents Conrad Black and other managers from trading their shares in Hollinger Inc., the Toronto-based holding company at the center of Black’s collapsed newspaper empire.

The commission scheduled the hearing for March 31.

Hollinger Inc. earlier this month finally caught up on years of overdue financial reporting in filing with the commission. It then asked the regulator to lift the cease-trading order imposed June 2004.

Hollinger Inc.’s principal asset is a 19.7% equity stake and 70.1% voting interest in Sun-Times Media Group Inc. (STMG), the company once known as Hollinger International that publishes the Chicago Sun-Times and other Chicago-area papers.

Hollinger Inc. said in early March that its “ability to continue as a going concern is uncertain,” because of the enormous deficit it has run up, and the decline in the stock price of STMG.

The Ontario agency’s announcement came as Black completes the first full week of his trial on U.S. federal criminal charges of racketeering, fraud, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice. He and three other top Hollinger International Executives — Peter Y. Atkinson, John “Jack” Boultbee, and Mark Kipnis — have pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the alleged illegal pocketing of phony “non-compete” payments as the chain was selling off its American and Canadian community papers.

All four defendants are covered by the Ontario cease-trading order.

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