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Livent co-founder Garth Drabinsky is shown in Toronto on March 25, 2009. (CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Livent co-founder Garth Drabinsky is shown in Toronto on March 25, 2009. (CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Theatre producer Garth Drabinsky fails to receive full parole Add to ...

Theatre producer Garth Drabinsky has failed to receive full parole after a Parole Board of Canada panel could not reach a unanimous decision following a hearing Monday.

The panel said it had a split decision in the case, which means a new parole hearing will have to be held at some point within the next two months.

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The former chief executive officer of live theatre company Livent Inc. was convicted of fraud in 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison, but was granted day parole last year after serving more than one-third of his sentence.

He has been living at a Toronto halfway house since February, where he has had to spend his nights, although he has been allowed weekend passes. Monday’s decision means he will have to continue living at the halfway house.

The two-person hearing panel did not offer any explanation for why it could not reach a decision on Mr. Drabinsky’s parole, but during the hearing Monday expressed concerns about his recent business activities in the entertainment sector, saying they have “parallels” to the work he did at Livent.

Mr. Drabinsky told the hearing he has been consulting to several companies, including a production company trying to develop a television miniseries based on a book, and another unnamed company proposing to build a new theatre.

Mr. Drabinsky insisted his role is far different than his work at Livent because he is only consulting and has no management authority and no control over finances.

He also insisted he would never re-offend and risk being returned to prison.

“There is nothing on this Earth to move me to do something that would affect my liberty ever again. I can’t go through what I’ve gone through for 15 years – this has been beyond the word devastating to me.”

He also revealed he is in talks with Ryerson University to provide educational advice to students, but did not explain further details, and said he would like to work for a law firm in the future to provide advice on entertainment law issues.

Mr. Drabinsky applied for full parole in the summer, but the parole board delayed a decision and ordered a new hearing in the case, saying it wanted to find out more information about his current work situation.

In its July decision, the board told Mr. Drabinsky had no behavioural problems and has a low risk of re-offending, but “you continue to minimize aspects of your offending and from the board’s perspective details of your employment need further clarification.”

During Monday’s hearing, Mr. Drabinsky repeated comments he has made before that he takes responsibility for what happened at Livent because the force of his personality and will to succeed pushed others at Livent to perpetrate the accounting fraud.

However, when pressed by parole board member Louise Harris to discuss his own specific activities, he made a stronger admission of personal responsibility.

“I without question was involved with fraudulent activities,” he said.

Mr. Drabinsky has helped form a new company called Ambassador Entertainment Inc., which is owned in trust in the names of his wife and children.

He is paid a salary by Ambassador Entertainment and his consulting work is the company’s only source of income, but a colleague is head of the company. He told the parole hearing he has no role in handling the company’s money and signs no cheques.

As a condition of his day parole, Mr. Drabinsky was not allowed to own or operate a business and was prohibited from being in a position of responsibility for managing money.

Mr. Drabinsky was found guilty of systematically misstating Livent’s financial results in every quarter after Livent became a public company in 1993 until its collapse in 1998. His business partner, Myron Gottlieb, was also convicted of fraud and was granted full parole in February.

In the 1990s, Livent was North America’s largest live theatre, producing musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Show Boat, Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb were suspended from the company in the summer of 1998 after new owners began probing Livent’s books and grew concerned about financial irregularities.

Mr. Drabinsky attended Mondaty’s parole hearing by video conference from a facility in Toronto, while the parole board members were in Kingston and members of the media watched the hearing in Toronto from a third parole board location.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Garth Drabinsky was denied day parole. In fact he was denied full parole.

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