Disgraced theatre mogul Drabinsky granted full parole after emotional hearing

TORONTO – Disgraced theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky will serve the last two years of his fraud sentence at home with his family after the Parole Board of Canada granted him full parole Monday.

The two parole board members hearing Drabinsky’s case said any risk to public safety would be “manageable,” noting he would still be barred from owning or operating a business or managing money for any other individual, company or charity.

The former impresario is also prohibited from contacting any of his co-accused, including his longtime friend and business partner Myron Gottlieb.

Drabinsky, 64, thanked the panel after an emotional two-hour hearing during which he described the strain of living apart from his family for the past three years while incarcerated and on day parole.

“It has been agonizing for my wife,” said Drabinsky, adding he looked forward to being with her and their children at his Toronto home “seven days a week.”

His wife, son and daughter attended Monday’s hearing but did not address the parole board.

Drabinsky’s initial bid for full parole in December failed because that panel couldn’t reach a unanimous decision.

He has been living in a halfway house since his release on day parole last February.

The ex-CEO of the now defunct Livent Inc. and Gottlieb were convicted in 2009 in connection with a book-cooking scheme that eventually led to the company’s bankruptcy.

The demise of the publicly traded company ultimately cost investors an estimated $500 million.

Under questioning Monday, Drabinsky blamed his fear of failure for the company’s collapse, saying it blinded him to the financial irregularities taking place on his watch.

“I didn’t want to fail and I didn’t want my company to fail,” he said.

That fear no longer compels him, he said.

“I no longer need to build empires… I no longer need public acclaim for my accomplishments.”

Since his release, Drabinsky has been working as an entertainment consultant for Ambassador Entertainment Inc., a company set up in the trust of his wife and children.

But so far, he hasn’t been paid his full salary, he admitted Monday.

That prompted the panel to question how Drabinsky would reimburse roughly $7 million he borrowed from family and friends to cover his legal costs — and whether the financial pressure could put him at risk of reoffending.

The former theatre impresario pointed to 10 letters in which his creditors —several of whom were victims of Drabinsky’s fraud — said they had no intention of reclaiming the money anytime soon.

“I wish I had your friends,” quipped Lubomyr Luciuk, one the panel members.

Drabinsky argued the letters prove he won’t have “a gun to (his) head” that could lead him to seek cash at all costs.

He swore never to forget his “harmful actions” — and never to repeat them.

“They are indelible and will haunt me for the rest of my days,” he said.

Earlier this month, Drabinsky lost his fight to reclaim the Order of Canada that was stripped away as he served his prison sentence.

He is still battling a move by Ontario’s law society that could result in him losing his license. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for March.