Hollinger International is examining investments that were made by Richard Perle, a director on the publisher’s board and prominent defense advisor, on behalf of the company.
The investigation is part of a wider internal probe at the publisher of the Daily Telegraph and Chicago Sun-Times into some of the company’s corporate governance practices, including the payment of nearly $300 million in management fees to Conrad Black, chief executive and chairman, and his deputies.
That probe, which is being lead by former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden, is wide-ranging and involves close scrutiny of so-called “related-party transactions,” or deals in which members of Hollinger’s board or executives personally benefited from deals the publisher agreed with other companies.
One transaction that caught the attention of some Hollinger investors was a $2.5 million investment earlier this year in Trireme Partners, a venture-capital company in which Mr. Perle, an independent director, is a managing partner.
Mr. Perle has also played a prominent role in the late 1990’s and early 2000 in directing investments in other companies through Hollinger Digital, Hollinger’s investment arm.
Under review is a $14 million investment the company made under Mr. Perle’s direction through Hillman Capital, a venture-capital group controlled by Gerald Hillman — who has since become a partner at Trireme and is a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, as was Mr. Perle.
The $14 million investment contributed to a fund used by Hillman Capital to acquire — with another private equity group — more than 70 per cent of Cambridge Display Technology, a U.K.-based technology group that holds a patent in light-emitting polymers, in 1999.
Early investors in CDT included Lord Young, a former business adviser to former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mr. Perle has been criticized in the past over perceived conflicts of interest in his business dealings.
Mr. Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board earlier this year after he was criticized for having a $750,000 contract with Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecoms group. Global Crossing was at the time seeking to overcome Defense Department objections on its sale to Hutchison Whampoa, a Chinese-controlled company.
Paul Healy, head of investor relations at Hollinger, refused to comment. Mr. Perle and Mr. Hillman were unavailable for comment.