Conrad Black gets 6 1/2 years in prison

Former chairman of media company Hollinger International sentenced for role in defrauding shareholders.

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CHICAGO (CNN) -- A federal judge Monday sentenced former media tycoon Conrad Black to 78 months in prison for his role in defrauding shareholders and skimming $6.1 million (correct) from his Hollinger International newspaper conglomerate.

Black, 63, was convicted in July in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois of mail fraud and obstruction of justice. He has vowed to appeal his conviction. During Monday's sentencing hearing, Black was also ordered to pay a $125,000 million fine (correct).

His associates - Peter Atkinson of Oakville, Ontario, Jack Boultbee of Victoria, British Columbia, and Mark Kipnis of Northbrook, Ill. - were also due to be sentenced on Monday. Atkinson, Kipnis and Boultbee were also convicted of mail fraud.

Prosecutors had initially recommended that all four defendants serve 15 to 20 years in prison.

In the early 1990s, Hollinger International controlled 60 percent of Canadian newspapers in addition to hundreds of dailies worldwide, including the Chicago Sun Times, Montreal Gazette, Britain's Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post.

Black resigned as chairman and chief executive officer of Hollinger in 2004 after an internal investigation into shareholders' complaints that he and other executives were lining their pockets with company funds.

Weeks after his November 2004 resignation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Black, as well as Hollinger International's former deputy chairman and chief operating officer, David Radler, and Hollinger International.

A year later, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald brought eight criminal fraud charges against Black, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Federal prosecutors said Black and the other defendants defrauded shareholders of Hollinger International by collecting "non-compete" payments from the sales of media holdings. In a non-compete, the seller agrees - in exchange for a payment - not to compete in the buyer's market. The prosecution argued that the payments ended up in the pockets of the defendants, as tax-free bonuses, instead of in the company coffers.

During the trial, which began in March, U.S. federal prosecutors described the lavish, eccentric lifestyles of Black and his wife, Lady Barbara Amiel, a journalist.

Because he is British, Black could serve his time in the United States or be transferred to a British prison.

He renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 and became Lord Black of Crossharbour, named for the subway stop near The Daily Telegraph.

The court ruled in July that Boultbee and Atkinson will be allowed to return to Canada to serve their prison sentences.

An earlier version of this story erroneously reported the amount Black was accused of skimming from Hollinger International and the amount of his fine. regrets the error.  To top of page

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