Ex-publisher jailed 29 months

The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO -- A federal judge sentenced former Chicago Sun-Times publisher F. David Radler to 29 months in prison yesterday for taking millions of dollars in unauthorized payments from the tabloid's parent company.

He must surrender to authorities Feb. 25.

U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve accepted the plea agreement between Radler and federal prosecutors that gave him a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and cooperating with government's investigation of a fraud scheme at Hollinger International Inc. He was also fined $250,000.

"You have breached your duty of loyalty and breached your duty of trust to Hollinger International," St. Eve said in court yesterday. She did, however, acknowledge Radler's attempts to right things by cooperating with prosecutors and paying back $61 million.

Radler was apologetic in court.

"I made mistakes and hurt me and my family and others," he said. "I am sorry for what I've done."

For his cooperation, Radler cut his possible jail term in half. Under the plea, Radler also can request to serve his time in his native Canada, in which case he could serve as little as six months.

Radler's lawyer, Anton Valukas, asked that his client be sentenced to Moshannon Valley prison in Pennsylvania.

Radler was the only senior executive charged by the government who pleaded guilty. His longtime business partner, Conrad Black, received 78 months in prison for his role in the scheme. Co-defendants John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson received 27 months and 24 months, respectively. The fifth executive, Mark Kipnis, received five years of probation and will not go to prison.

Radler has paid $53 million to Hollinger International in restitution and as part of settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission and civil lawsuits.

Radler testified against his former colleagues during a nearly four-month trial that ended in July with their fraud convictions. A jury also found Black guilty of obstructing justice for removing 13 boxes from his Toronto office during the investigation, an infraction that was caught on tape.

Radler's affiliation with Black began nearly 40 years ago when he was 27 and Black was 25. They invested in a tiny, English-language daily in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Black became publisher while Radler ran the day-to-day operation, including advertising, circulation and administration.

Together they built a media empire that at its peak held more than 300 papers, including the Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph in London and the Jerusalem Post. Radler kept a low profile while his business partner hobnobbed with dignitaries and celebrities and became Lord Black of Crossharbour in England.

But allegations of fraud arose after shareholders questioned payments made to Black, Radler and others in connection with the sale of Hollinger newspapers. In September 2005, Radler pleaded guilty to helping loot the company of more than $32 million.

The payments were disguised as compensation for Hollinger International's promise not to open rival newspapers to compete with the papers that were being sold. But Radler admitted there was no legitimate business reason for the payments.

Ameet Sachdev writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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