By Fitzgerald, Mark
Editor & Publisher
On the eve of opening statements in the criminal fraud trial of Conrad Black, the deposed newspaper mogul's one-time lieutenant -- and the government's star witness -- and three of his newspaper companies agreed to pay $63.4 million to settle charges he looted the Sun-Times Media Group (STMG) and backdated stock options.
F. David Radler, a former Chicago Sun-Times publisher and COO of the STMG when it was known as Hollinger International, will pay $21.8 million to settle civil charges he improperly took $21.8 million from the company, and that he backdated stock options, an illegal maneuver that can make them more valuable.
Radler's North American Newspapers Ltd. will pay $23.3 million into the settlement. Horizon Publishing Co. and Bradford Publishing Co. -- both of which were once controlled by Black and Radler -- will pay $11.78 million and $7.15 million respectively.
The settlement, announced late Sunday by STMG, threw the trial of Black into chaos Monday morning. Opening statements had been expected to begin soon after the 9:30 CDT start of the trial in Chicago.
Hundreds of reporter, cameramen and other media workers descended on the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse, filling up Judge Amy J. St. Eve's courtroom as soon as U.S. marshals opened the doors. Two "media overflow" rooms were set up with large television monitors broadcasting the courtroom action.
An hour before the scheduled start of opening statements, marshals were heard warning the teams of lawyers for Black and his three co-defendants that there were already too many lawyers for the spaces allotted. "You're going to have to tell some of the small fish they've gotta go," one marshal told the lawyers.
In court, Black's Chicago attorney Edward Genson immediately protested that news of the settlement with STMG -- combined with the announcement on Friday that Radler had reached a similar settlement on regulatory charges from the U. …