The Movie Man
In 1979, Mr. Drabinsky co-founded Cineplex Odeon Corp. with the creation of a 21-theatre complex in Toronto's Eaton Centre. By 1989, Cineplex had amassed more than 1,800 screens in more than 500 locations. On "Black Friday" (Nov. 27, 1989), Mr. Drabinsky and business partner Myron Gottlieb were booted from the company by the Hollywood conglomerate MCA and Montreal's Bronfman family. Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb hung on to Cineplex Odeon's tiny live-theatre division.
Beginning with The Disappearance in 1977, Mr. Drabinsky produced a number of films including The Silent Partner (1978), The Changeling (1980), Losin' It (1983), and Half Light (2006).
The Broadway Impresario
From Cineplex's live-theatre division, Livent was born. Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb were awarded control of the Canadian rights to The Phantom of the Opera, and the newly restored Pantages Theatre, where the mega-musical had opened a few months before. Soon, Livent was mounting big-budget shows such as Showboat, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. During his Broadway career, Mr. Drabinsky's productions captured 19 Tony Awards.
of the Order of Canada
On June 30, 1995, Mr. Drabinsky was awarded the Order of Canada. David Mirvish, of Livent rival Mirvish Productions, received the award on the same day.
In 1998, Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz offered to buy a controlling stake in the Toronto company and inject some needed cash. A few weeks later, though, his accountants alerted authorities to some alleged "irregularities" in the books. Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb were suspended from the company, which later filed for bankruptcy and sold off its assets.
After being ousted from Livent, some high-profile names came to Mr. Drabinsky's aid. Then-newspaper baron Conrad Black, leveraged buyout king Gerry Schwartz, movie maker Robert Lantos, and car parts magnate Frank Stronach were among them. They contributed to Mr. Drabinsky's defence fund. Many also gave him jobs.
Mr. Stronach hired him as a creative consultant for his U.S. entertainment business. Mr. Black's National Post signed him as an external media consultant. And Norman and Elly Reisman of the Great Gulf Group of Cos. employed Mr. Drabinsky for his marketing expertise.
On Oct. 22, 2002, after a four-year investigation, the RCMP charged Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb with fraud and forgery, amid allegations that they and two other executives had falsified the failed theatre company's financial statements for nearly 10 years. Police alleged that the accused defrauded creditors and investors of about $500-million between Dec. 14, 1989, and June 23, 1998.
Yesterday, Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb were found guilty of fraud. "The accounting system was fraudulent. Most importantly, I have been satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew what was happening with the financial statements," said Madam Justice Mary Lou Benotto.
Under sentencing guidelines in 1998, when the alleged crimes occurred, each count of fraud carries a maximum jail term of 10 years. The maximum sentence for a count of forgery is 14 years.
Mr. Drabinsky and Mr. Gottlieb would not comment as they left court. Their lawyers also said they could not comment until they had read the judge's 85-page written decision.