A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday denied former media mogul Conrad Black's emergency request to remain free on bond while appealing his 6 1/2-year sentence for swindling his company's shareholders.

But technically, the court in Chicago could still free the Montreal-born Black on bond rather than force him to start his sentence on his March 3 surrender date.

The appeals judges in effect told Black that there was no need for an emergency decision on his request and said there was still plenty of time to mull the issue of whether he should get a so-called appeal bond.

Black was acquitted of most of the charges against him, but he was convicted July 13 of fraud, as were two other executives of their former company, Hollinger International Inc.

The executives were accused of siphoning off millions of dollars that should have gone to shareholders and attempted to disguise them as "non-compete" payments.

In the publishing business, such payments are sometimes made to the sellers of newspapers in exchange for a promise not to return to the same circulation area to compete with the new owners for a specified time.

Prosecutors said any proceeds from such payments belonged to the shareholders and should not have gone into the pockets of the executives.

Black was also convicted of obstruction of justice for hauling boxes of business documents out of his Toronto office.

On Dec. 10, U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve sentenced Black to 78 months, John Boultbee to 27 months and Peter Y. Atkinson to 24 months.

Hollinger International Inc. was once one of the world's biggest newspaper holding companies. Its properties included The National Post in Canada, The Daily Telegraph of London, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post, as well as hundreds of community newspapers across the United States and Canada.

All the big papers except the Sun-Times have now been sold and the company that emerged changed its name to Sun-Times Media Group.