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Chicago Sun-Times President Resigns In Scandal, Parent Company for Sale

By Patrick Mcgeehan

The New York Times -- Conrad M. Black, the Canadian press baron who sought to build a global collection of newspapers with a conservative bent, is quitting as chief executive of his company and putting it up for sale after an internal investigation revealed on Monday that he and his partners had received $15.6 million in unauthorized payments.

A sale of the company, Hollinger International, either as a whole or in parts would likely bring an end to the big-media ambitions of Lord Black. A Canadian-born British lord, he started his empire with a pair of weekly newspapers in Quebec and expanded it to span half the globe and contain the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph in London, the Jerusalem Post, and a stake in the New York Sun.

Along the way, he assembled a high-powered board of directors that includes former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, as well as his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, who is a newspaper columnist.

Now, under pressure stirred up six months ago by angry shareholders, he is stepping down as an executive of the publishing company. But to the dismay of some of those investors, Black plans to stay on as chairman while an investment bank, Lazard, seeks buyers. Investment bankers and analysts said they expected the company to be broken up with each of its major papers going to a different buyer.

The company said David Radler, its president and the publisher of the Sun-Times, also resigned and that he and Black would repay the company more than $14 million. It also named a new management team led by Gordon A. Paris, a director and investment banker, who is scheduled to succeed Black as chief executive on Nov. 21.

“The present structure of the group clearly must be renovated,” Black said in a statement that showed he had softened his defiant stance. At the company’s shareholders meeting in May, he said it was important to ensure that “corporate-governance crusaders don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

At that raucous meeting, he announced the formation of a special committee of directors, a move that, though probably unavoidable, may have led to his downfall. Some analysts said on Monday that, given the committee’s findings so far, they believed Black’s eventual departure from the company and its newspapers was inevitable even though he still has voting control.

But not all of his critics believe Black will go so quietly.

“I think that he will do everything he can to cling on,” said Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at the City University of London who is a media columnist for The Guardian.