Wife of KKR founder may be sued over Hollinger

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The Independent Online

Several members of Hollinger International's audit committee, including the economist Marie-Josee Kravis, may be sued for allegedly allowing the publishing empire's former chairman, Lord Black of Crossharbour, to loot millions of dollars from the company.

Mrs Kravis, who also sits on the board of Ford Motor and is the wife of Henry Kravis, the co-founder of the leveraged buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and two other members of Hollinger's audit committee, have received Wells notices from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

These indicate that the investigations department of the SEC plans to seek authorisation from the body's commissioners to file a civil suit. Recipients can try to dissuade the agency by submitting a response.

Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany, and James Thompson, a former governor of Illinois and now chairman of the Chicago law firm Winston & Strawn, have also received notices. Both remain Hollinger directors. Ms Kravis stepped down from the board in 2003.

Lord Black is being sued by the SEC and his former company, which is trying to recover money it says he owes it. He was also criminally indicted last month by government prosecutors in Chicago on charges of stealing $84m (£47m) from the company, along with his associates, and with misusing corporate perks at Hollinger, which used to own The Daily Telegraph.

The Canadian-born peer pleaded not guilty in Chicago on 1 December. Jack Boultbee, Hollinger's former finance director, Mark Kipnis, its legal counsel, and Peter Atkinson, the former vice-president, have been charged with Lord Black. All have pleaded not guilty.

David Radler, a former business partner of Lord Black at Hollinger for 40 years, admitted in September he had committed fraud and agreed to co-operate with investigators.

The SEC warnings come after a report commissioned by the company and written by Richard Breedon, a former chairman of the SEC, highlighted its role.

Mr Breedon said Hollinger's audit committee had approved $218m in management fees from 1997 to 2003 to Ravelston, a Canadian company that Lord Black used to control the Chicago-based Hollinger.