Lord Black relents and returns $30m to Hollinger International

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The Independent Online

Lord Black of Crossharbour paid back $30m (£16m) of un-authorised payments yesterday to Hollinger International, the US publisher where he was until recently chief executive.

Lord Black of Crossharbour paid back $30m (£16m) of un-authorised payments yesterday to Hollinger International, the US publisher where he was until recently chief executive.

The Canadian-born peer was ordered by a court in Delaware to pay the money back to Hollinger after it ruled that he had received it for "non-compete" clauses that had not been approved by the board.

The payments covered a series of transactions that took place when Hollinger sold local newspapers in Canada between 1999 and 2001. They form part of more than $200m paid to Lord Black and a group of his close associates in management fees and non-compete payments. These were challenged by shareholders, led by the New York fund manager Tweedy Browne.

Lord Black had originally struck a deal to pay back the money after an investigation by a special committee, led by the former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Richard Breeden. This uncovered a series of payments to Lord Black, his Canadian company, Hol-linger Inc, a private company he controlled and two of his lieutenants. Mr Breeden said none of these had been authorised by the board.

Lord Black was due to make the initial repayment of $8.7m by 1 June, but when he missed the deadline, Hollinger International went back to court.

The court case over the unauthorised payments is just part of a blizzard of legal actions involving Hollinger International and its former leader. Lord Black is suing the company to try to prevent it completing the £665m sale of its prize asset, the Telegraph Group, to the Barclay brothers, publishers of The Scotsman.

The legal action comes despite a previous deal Lord Back had struck with the brothers to sell his interest in Hollinger International. That deal was ruled illegal after a court case.

In a separate case, proceeding in Chicago, Lord Black and two other former directors of Hollinger International are being pursued for up to $400m under the racketeering laws, which were originally brought in to combat organised crime.

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