Monday, May 10, 2004

Former Hollinger exec disputes racketeering claims

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO - A former Hollinger International Inc. executive who is named in a $1.25 billion lawsuit that accuses him and others of improperly diverting funds is defending his actions.

Former executive vice president F. David Radler issued a statement Sunday refuting the newspaper company's allegations of racketeering, saying the transactions at issue had been approved by Hollinger International's board of directors. He said he plans to "vigorously defend" his actions.

An amended federal lawsuit filed Friday in Chicago by a special committee of Hollinger International's board of directors seeks more than $1.25 billion in damages.

The lawsuit accuses Radler, former CEO Conrad Black and others of pocketing millions of dollars in non-competition fees and other payments when they allegedly sold newspapers for less than their market value. Those actions constituted a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, Hollinger International said.

Radler said in his statement that the amended lawsuit had some "curious omissions."

Hollinger International declined comment on the statement, company spokeswoman Molly Morse said on Sunday.

Black has called the allegations "tabloid journalism masquerading as law."

The amended complaint seeks to triple damages of more than $380 million because of the alleged racketeering, the company said. Its claim also includes almost $104 million in interest.

Hollinger International owns The Daily Telegraph of London, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post.

Radler, who also was publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Black stepped down in November.

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