Deadline looms for 'Telegraph' boss Black's cash call

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The Independent Online

With just days to go before the deadline for Conrad Black, the Canadian press baron, to pay part of the $7.2m (£4m) he owes Hollinger International, there was last night no indication that he had made the payment.

Lord Black of Crossharbour missed a 31 December deadline to make a £460,000 first instalment of the payment, and was given an extension which will now run out on Tuesday. Last night both Hollinger and Lord Black's New York office declined to comment on whether any payment had been, or would be, made.

The sum is due under an agreement reached by Lord Black and two associates - former company president David Radler and vice-president Peter Atkinson - to return $7.2m in non-competition payments that Hollinger had paid them, allegedly without the board's approval. Lord Black's two colleagues made their repayments but the Telegraph Group chairman declined, pending his own investigation into whether it was required.

A spokesman for Lord Black said last night: "We have nothing to add to the statement made by John Warden, Lord Black's legal representative, earlier this month."

On 5 January, Mr Warden said: "There is substantial additional material relevant to the disputed non-compete payments that has become available to Lord Black's legal counsel since questions about those payments were first raised in November, and we are reviewing the implications of that information."

Hollinger International's interim chief executive, Gordon Paris, set today's deadline for Lord Black to make the repayment. Corporate law allows a weekend payment to be made on the next business day. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King's birthday and a holiday in the US.

Lord Black is also at risk of being removed as chairman of the Telegraph Group, owner of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator. His financial problems were highlighted last night when it emerged he has failed to make a $100,000 donation to the New York Public Library despite pledging the sum at a Literary Lions dinner on 3 November.

The New York Times reported a spokesman for Lord Black, who co-chaired the dinner with his wife Barbara Amiel, saying he "informed the chairman of the library that there might be a delay in the contribution but that he would keep his commitment and intends to make it".