Who has the right to sell Conrad Black's media empire: Lord Black, the majority shareholder, who is under fire for taking allegedly improper commissions, or the board of Hollinger International, the U.S. public firm that actually owns the newspapers, including Britain 's Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times? That's the key question following Black's surprise deal last week to sell his holdings to the reclusive Barclay brothers for a bargain $466 million.
Infuriated, Hollinger's board has told its investment bank, Lazard, to find other buyers. "The board believes it has the authority to sell assets without the authority of the controlling shareholder," says a source
Will Executive Bonuses Be Next?
Marking a victory for anticorruption campaigners, 18 of the world's top construction and engineering firms have agreed to stop paying bribes to win contracts. At the Davos World Economic Forum, the firms including Hochtief of Germany, Swiss-based ABB and Skanska of Sweden unveiled a set of principles aimed at eliminating bribery, contending that businesses themselves are hurt by rampant payoffs because they distort competition. "There is significant corruption in the industry," Alan Boeckmann, chief executive of U.S. construction giant Fluor, tells TIME. Some big players, including Bechtel and Halliburton which last week fired two employees for allegedly taking $6 million in kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor declined to participate, but with an accord now in place there is growing pressure to sign up. Will the pledge be enforced? We'll see. "We all know this is just a first step," Boeckmann acknowledges.
Amid declining productivity and rising unemployment, the E.U. Commission warned member states that plans to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010 were on course to fail.
|The Bottom Line|
|This is the only country where people who are successfully creating value have to go to court.
|JOSEF ACKERMANN, Deutsche Bank CEO, on Day 1 of his trial for alleged breach of trust related to Vodafone's 2000 takeover of Mannesmann|