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Former Livent CEO Drabinsky wins full parole

Livent co-founder Garth Drabinsky is shown in Toronto on March 25, 2009.


Canadian theatre producer Garth Drabinsky has finally been awarded full parole following a second attempt to argue his case before the Parole Board of Canada.

The board previously considered Mr. Drabinsky's request for full parole at a hearing in December, but the panel had a split decision in the case, which meant a new hearing had to be scheduled because the decision requires unanimous support.

At his new hearing on Monday, the board ruled Mr. Drabinsky, 64, does not need to continue to live at a halfway house in Toronto.

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"We are satisfied your risk is manageable to move into the next step of your release from day parole to full parole," said Parole Board member Linda Lennon.

The former chief executive officer of live theatre company Livent Inc. was convicted of fraud in 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison. He began serving his sentence in September, 2011, after losing a bid to appeal the decision.

He was released on day parole in February, 2013, and has lived since then at a halfway house in Toronto, although he has been allowed weekend passes to his home for three nights each week. Monday's decision means he will be allowed to serve the rest of his parole period at home with his wife.

During the hearing, Mr. Drabinsky said he accepts responsibility for wrongdoing at Livent as CEO of the company, and said he feels deep remorse for victims of his crime, including former employees and investors.

"I am profoundly sorry for their sake that any of these offences occurred," he said.  "I should have protected all of them much more."

He added he will be "haunted" for the rest of his life by the harm caused by his actions.

He also reiterated prior comments he has made publicly, however, saying he did not know accounting staff were committing fraud at the company, saying everything would have been different if any employee had ever come to him to reveal fraud was occurring.

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Instead, he said he pushed staff over the line by the force of his personality and his insistence that the company be profitable, creating a culture where employees felt pushed into fraud. He said he realizes he should never have become CEO of Livent and should have instead been the creative director who produced the plays.

"My sins of commission were out of this fear of failure, driving the culture of the company unrealistically too hard in terms of the concept of maximizing income," he said.

Mr. Drabinsky was found guilty of fraud for 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.

At Monday's hearing, panel members continued to ask Mr. Drabinsky for more information about his current work in the entertainment industry. One of Mr. Drabinsky's parole conditions is that he is not allowed to own or operate a business and is prohibited from being in a position of responsibility for managing money.

After his release from jail, Mr. Drabinsky formed a new company called Ambassador Entertainment Inc., which is owned in trust in the names of his wife and. He is paid a salary by the company as an employee, but is not the CEO.

Among his projects, Mr. Drabinsky has been working with a company trying to develop a miniseries based on a book and has worked for a company trying to build a new theatre.

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At Monday's hearing, Mr. Drabinsky insisted he has no role in managing money or acting as CEO of Ambassador and said he no longer wants to be in charge of a company.

"I no longer need to build empires. I no longer need to build public companies. I no longer need public acclaim of my accomplishments. I've sought a much more quiet life. "

Mr. Drabinsky said that over the past decade he has borrowed $7-million from family and friends to help finance the cost of all the civil and criminal court cases he has faced, and said that money didn't cover "anywhere near" the entire cost of the litigation.

But he said the parole board members did not need to fear that his enormous debt would pressure him into acting illegally to make money to cover the costs. He said he asked the people who lent him the money to write letters to the parole board in December explaining they are not pressuring him for repayment and they understand they may never be repaid.

"I didn't want to suggest there is a gun to my head to suggest I'd do anything untoward," he explained.

In the 1990s, Livent was North America's largest live theatre company, 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 1998 after new owners began probing Livent's books and became concerned about financial irregularities.

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