Fear and Loathing in Bora Bora

This missive below from the Conrad Black trial must be really embarrassing for Black. Reading about this horrible trip and his feelings of inadequacy next to young honeymooners, I feel kind of sorry for the guy … OK, it’s gone now. What is amazing about the doomed flight is that Conrad could have had it all – and kept the sordid story to himself and Babs – had he kept his company private. This type of scandal and embarassment would never happen to Jimmy Pattison, because Pattison is a sole proprietor, perhaps the largest one in the world, and as a private owner he has little requirement in terms of disclosure laws that public companies with shareholders have.

But like Dr Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle, Black got too greedy. Apparently his fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars was not enough for the lifestyle which he deemed himself worthy. A few years ago, Barbara Amiel was quoted whining to Conrad about having to fly first class from London to New York instead of having a private jet. And so they treated the company jet as their own, dismissing the reaction of the plane’s other owners.

Black, Amiel felt like ‘geriatric freaks’ on Bora Bora

Jurors chuckle as prosecutor reads email about controversial trip on company jet

Apr 11, 2007 04:30 AM


Staff Reporter
CHICAGO–The 2001 Tahitian vacation that may cost Conrad Black his freedom featured a little bit of everything: “loutish” honeymooners, a near drowning, and even an outbreak of dengue fever, Black’s fraud trial heard yesterday.

Details of Black’s controversial trip aboard a company jet to Bora Bora were disclosed late in the day as prosecutors showed the jury newly disclosed documents related to the disputed round-the-world vacation.

In July and August of 2001, Black and his wife Barbara Amiel flew aboard the company’s Gulfstream IV plane from Toronto to Bora Bora.

They then flew to Seattle to attend German composer Richard Wagner’s famous opera “The Ring Cycle.”

The trip, which cost $565,326, is key to the U.S. government’s case against Black.

Yet one email, sent by Black on Aug. 22, 2001 – days after he returned – suggests the vacation was a disaster.

“We just got back yesterday from a shambles of a trip to the South Pacific, where I came down with bronchitis and almost drowned snorkelling as a result,” Black wrote Seth Lipsky, editor of the New York Sun newspaper.

“We felt like geriatric freaks among a sea of honeymooners – loutish young men and their perky wives. Shortly after we arrived on Bora Bora we discovered the island was in the throes of a dengue fever epidemic and we spent the rest of our time there applying insect repellant and sweltering indoors.

“Matters have been very intense since we returned but I will respond to your telephone message tomorrow. …”

This article is interesting as we do not often get a close glimpse at the lives of the super-rich. Unlike most, I spent a huge amount of my teenage years in the company of the rich elite of Toronto, though never rich myself – in fact, I was raised by my lone-parent mother on a rather tight budget, but went to Upper Canada College on scholarship. I also had a rich uncle, who loved to mingle in those high-end circles before his own little empire came crashing down several years ago. (There is lots more to rant about UCC, and I will unearth more as I head to my 20th anniversary of graduation later this year. For example, I just got a telemarketing call from UCC, seeking funds for their latest capital project, a double-indoor hockey arena with both an NHL-sized and an Olympic-sized rink, to replace the existing arena. I said no.)

My observation is that rich people are often not very happy people. Most people think that with vast wealth would come vast pleasures in having “the best of everything”. Oh no. Life is not necessarily that great for their kids either. When he was younger, my cousin, who also went to UCC, was friends with Monty Black, Conrad’s nephew. The kid basically did not know his parents; they were always away and he was raised by nannies.

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