Report: SEC Probing Hollinger Payments


(AP) The Securities and Exchange Commission is joining the investigation into payments made to top executives at Hollinger International Inc., according to a published report.

The agency has its sights set on Hollinger’s board of directors and the role it played in approving the payments, the Chicago Tribune reported in its Wednesday editions.

Hollinger is the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Hollinger chief executive Conrad Black and Sun-Times Publisher David Radler stepped down Monday after an internal review found that the two men, other executives and Hollinger’s parent company received more than $32 million in unauthorized payments connected to the sale of several community newspapers.

The SEC is working with former agency chairman Richard Breeden who was hired last summer by Hollinger’s board to head a special committee investigating the payments, according to the Tribune, which cited unidentified sources.

Former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson is a member of Hollinger’s board and head of the audit committee. He told the Tribune that he had no knowledge of an SEC investigation.

“I think I would know,” Thompson said. But he later added: “I have no idea what the SEC is doing.”

Thompson said he believed that Hollinger’s board made first contact with the SEC last week when it disclosed details about some of the payments uncovered in the internal investigation.

According to Hollinger, Black and Radler each received about $7.2 million in unauthorized payments while executive vice presidents Peter Y. Atkinson and J.A. Boultbee each received about $600,000.

All of the executives except one have agreed to repay Hollinger what they owe, with interest, the company said. The fourth, Boultbee, was fired, Hollinger said.

The company also said Black agreed to seek the repayment of $16.55 million paid to Hollinger International parent Hollinger Inc., where he is the majority shareholder.

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