Leader

Oh what a tangled web we weave… at least until it’s ripped asunder by furious shareholders as newspaper baron Lord Black of Crossharbour has so publicly discovered.

And the revelations just keep coming. Aside from which Hollinger executive got what chunk of the $32m (£18.6m) worth of unauthorised management payments, the other big question is who will buy what assets?

Still, where there’s a problem, there’s a lawyer, and for Hollinger International, publisher of the Telegraph Group, it’s our very own Herbert Smith.

Showing the benefits of weaving an altogether different kind of web, Herbert Smith, led by corporate partner Anthony Macaulay, won this most high-profile of deals partly through its long association with Lazards, the investment bank charged with finding buyers for Hollinger International’s various publishing assets.

Last year, Lazards referred the capital restructuring of high street retailer Next to Herbert Smith, circumventing Simmons & Simmons and Eversheds. Although corporate expert Henry Raine is now the relationship partner for Next, it was Macaulay who acted on the original instruction.

And it was Macaulay who led on the corporate side for Carnival on the battle for P&O Princess. He worked closely with Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, a good friend of Herbert Smith, which happens to be providing US advice, led by partner Judith Thoyer, to Hollinger International.

The web analogy seems to be a theme that runs through the Hollinger mess. O’Melveny & Myers has been retained by the special committee established to investigate Hollinger and the payments made to insiders by its associated companies. Apparently, the firm was instructed at the behest of former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and member of the special committee Richard Breeden.

Even within Hollinger there are all sorts of legal criss-crossings of distant associations. James Thompson, a director at Hollinger International who heads its audit commission, is also the chairman at Winston & Strawn. Coincidentally, practising there is Melanie Radler, daughter of David Radler, former COO of Hollinger International. The US firm, though, has never advised Hollinger or associated companies.

The links are endless. For Herbert Smith, its job is vastly more complex than tracing lawyer relationships, although it is no doubt relishing the thought of getting stuck in. I wonder if Lord Black feels the same way?