Maybe it's the IRA's fault
More trouble at the London branch of the Vast Right Conspiracy [VRC] -- and the Chicago and Toronto branches too. We've noted before how Conrad Black, the newspaper publisher formerly known to be Canadian, has put his papers at the service of the VRC, although with each paper allowed to have some idiosyncratic obsessions so that the VRC spin-points aren't quite so transparent. Hence the Daily Telegraph's recurring slams of Irish nationalism and pictures of Liz Hurley.
But there have been continuing news accounts, prompted by complaints from the Angry Left on Wall Street, that all is not well on the corporate governance side of Black's media empire. In fact, there seems to be a three level corporate structure, in which Black owns a company called Ravelston, which owns a company called Hollinger, which has a controlling stake in Hollinger International, which actually runs the Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, and many other papers -- and put up some of the money to start the widely read New York Sun.
The company that produces stuff is Hollinger International, and it has other shareholders besides Black. And they are most unhappy. As today's Wall Street Journal [subs. req'd] reports (doubtless to the embarrassment of the editorial side of the Journal), the shareholders have succeeded in getting Black's London house and car off the company tab, but there are still mysterious fees and one-time payments to Black and cronies [via the holding companies] from the operating company. In particular, Black seems to have arranged deals where the company "sold" some of its newspaper operations to other companies, and then paid himself big fees not to defect to those companies. These "non-compete fees" are a standard, if somewhat dubious, corporate practice, and they sort of make sense where there is a realistic prospect that the execs could bolt to the other company. Except that in this case, the other companies seem to have been closely associated with Black. In other words, he paid himself lots of money not to leave to another enterprise that he had set up.
Black, supported by board members such as Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, has little patience with these criticisms:
"This evidence of moral turpitude has been conjured out of thin air"
We suppose we should be thankful that he didn't directly blame the BBC, or the IRA.