Garth Drabinsky fraud trial to begin Monday

Some 10 years since the collapse of live-theater outfit

TORONTO -- After swirling for 10 years in the legal ether, the criminal fraud trial of Garth Drabinsky, over his role in the 1998 collapse of live-theater producer Livent Inc., is to begin Monday.

During a five-year span at Livent that began in 1993, Drabinsky produced such hit Broadway musicals as "Ragtime," "Showboat" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" that initially bowed in Toronto and eventually toured North America.

But that reign unravelled in 1998 soon after Michael Ovitz bought a controlling stake in Livent and his self-appointed management team, led by New York banker Roy Furman, uncovered financial irregularities that prosecutors will argue were engineered by Drabinsky and longtime business partner Myron Gottlieb.

Both men face three counts of accounting fraud that date back to Livent's original IPO, down from an original 19 fraud-related charges considered during a 2005 preliminary hearing.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb were originally charged in 2002 with defrauding investors of about CAN$500 million. In 1999, American authorities indicted Drabinsky for fraud, but he has fought extradition to the U.S. to answer those charges.

Livent, which eventually went bankrupt, saw its assets, including theaters in Toronto, New York and Chicago, sold off in 1999 to then SFX Entertainment, which was eventually acquired by Clear Channel Communications.