Dark Lord sent to Azkaban
Guilty. The trial is over, or at least this lengthy phase is. The Globe has a good summary of why he was found guilty (see The Independent, too), and an insider look at how the jury made its decision. Below is a (lengthy) retrospective based on various post-trial commentary and analysis in the media, with a focus more on the colourful character that is Conrad Black.
I always thought the story of this trial was really about Black’s (and Amiel’s) extreme sense of privilege and entitlement that led Black to not just look down on the common man but smaller shareholders of his companies. He wanted their capital but was not willing to give them the commensurate rights of ownership that comes with that. He wanted to act like it was a private company when it was not, and in doing so dismissed the legitimate concerns of other shareholders.
Let’s take a step back. David Olive offers up a condensed history:
The Conrad Black story ended yesterday as it began, in disgrace.
It began with a 15-year-old child of privilege expelled from Upper Canada College, the most prestigious prep school in the nation, after he stole exam papers and peddled them to fellow students. Scarcely chastened, young Black was then expelled from a second upper-class school, Trinity College School, for insubordinate behaviour.
The saga ended yesterday when a Chicago jury convicted Black, 62, of fraud and obstruction of justice, charges for which the fallen press baron faces a likely minimum of 20 years of hard time in a U.S. prison.
For many Canadians, the outcome will not be cause for sympathy.
As a wunderkind tycoon in the 1970s, Black outwitted two widows to seize control of one of Canada’s greatest conglomerates, Argus Corp. After promising to build on Argus’s earlier triumphs, Black instead dismantled that creaking empire, which saw him preside over the collapse of Massey-Ferguson Ltd., which once ruled the British Empire market in farm equipment; and the rapid decline of the venerable Dominion Stores Ltd.
That first debacle revealed the suspect business acumen of Black and his “associates.” (Black has always described his fellow executives that way, as if they were engaged in law, medicine or some other calling more distinguished than grubby commerce.) It also left behind a sizeable population of aggrieved minority shareholders and laid-off employees who claimed theft of their pensions (an accusation not proved in any court).
The minority investors couldn’t help noticing that Black’s financial engineering â€“ his countless reorganizations of a daisy chain of companies â€“ generally found Black and his associates further enriched while other investors suffered buyer’s remorse.
Come the mid-1980s, Black was engaged in a second career of accumulating newspapers, trade magazines and opinion journals in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, Israel, Britain and Australia, ranging from the Puxatawney Spirit of Groundhog Day fame to the mighty Daily Telegraph, Britain’s largest-circulation upmarket daily, which by tradition came with a peerage for its proprietor.
Along the way, Black misled the Daily Telegraph’s Berry family into thinking they would have a continued role in a paper from which he planned to evict them, as he would later erase what remained of the Southam influence from their dominant papers in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver.
It’s often said these days that, for all his faults, Black at least lifted the quality of Canadian journalism, notably with his launch of the National Post. That’s bunk.
Black’s principal legacy is “libel chill.” For decades he used libel writs, usually delivered by top “associate” Peter Atkinson â€“ also found guilty of fraud yesterday â€“ to neuter coverage of his activities.
Rather than risk the enormous aggravation of dealing with Atkinson’s imperious accusations of defamation, reporters and editors across the land engaged in the longest period of self-censorship ever afforded a public figure. None of Black’s libel actions was ever tested in a courtroom; timorous media outlets chose not to call his bluff.
Prospective investors in Hollinger International had difficulty learning, therefore, that the future Lord Black of Crossharbour was chronically given to doing one thing and saying another. The final irony in this regard is that Black laid bare many of his least attractive business methods in his own 1993 memoir, Conrad Black: A Life in Progress (Key Porter).
Linda McQuaig focuses on the impact of the National Post:
He used his ample resources to create the National Post, a vehicle that helped him push the mainstream debate in Canada considerably to the right. Black relentlessly used the Post as a platform for himself and a host of like-minded commentators to ridicule the Canadian taste for equality and strong public programs, to denigrate what amounted to the Canadian way of doing things.
Black liked to present the Post as an irreverent, scrappy upstart of a newspaper that shook up the staid Canadian media scene and challenged the establishment with its “take-no-prisoners” approach. The only problem with that image was that, far from challenging the establishment, the Post was â€“ and is â€“ the establishment.
It may well have been a scrappy upstart, but from the beginning it was an attack-dog fighting on behalf of Canada’s financial elite, who have never been shy about defending their own interests. Could anyone seriously argue that, before the Post came along, we had heard insufficiently from business on the subject of the need for tax cuts, free trade or deficit reduction?
Of course, before Black started the Post, the message of the financial elite had been championed relentlessly for decades by The Globe and Mail. What the Post added was a sassy new look to the staid corporate message. It offered up the same old thunderous voice of Big Business, but now cranked up to deafening levels, with even less attempt at “balance,” and with more zing, including shots of celebrities in low-cut dresses. Its pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage.
If the Post had a target, it was never the establishment, but rather the powerless. I recall how the Post, under Black, came out guns blazing against a court decision favouring a group of secretaries, file clerks and librarians who had waged a lengthy battle against the federal government for failing to follow its own pay equity laws.
The Post fearlessly called for a total repeal of pay equity laws, to prevent this sort of fairness from ever intruding into the Canadian workplace again. That’ll show those uppity girls.
So much was Black part of the Canadian establishment that he managed to escape legal problems here for years, and would have likely escaped them entirely, had the U.S. authorities not eventually caught up with him.
In Canada, Black got a soft ride at the hands of authorities. He was investigated here in connection with a 1982 takeover bid of U.S. mining firm for possible violations of our securities laws. Two staff investigators of the Ontario Securities Commission recommended the commission lay a total of 26 securities charges against Black, his firm Norcen Energy and president Edward Battle.
But the decision whether to lay the charges was in the hands of the commission’s eight-member board, who were all well-connected members of the Canadian financial elite. In the end, they decided not to prosecute one of their own.
Having been cleared by the establishment, Black went on bankroll a newspaper that loudly trumpeted the rights of the affluent, while posing as a scrappy upstart taking on the establishment.
And the state of the empire today:
At its height in 1997, the firm owned 13 big-city dailies â€“ the National Post, the Daily Telegraph, The Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of community newspapers in Canada and the United States.
Now, all that’s left in the portfolio is the struggling Chicago Sun-Times, a second-ranked Chicago daily, and dozens of regional community newspapers and shopping flyers.
The situation is more dire for Hollinger Inc., the Toronto-based holding company that once constituted the centre of Black’s empire.
The firm, which continues to hold a 20 per cent stake in Sun-Times and a majority of the voting shares, warned earlier this year that its “ability to continue as a going concern is uncertain” as it owes $93 million worth of senior notes that are in default.
Black controlled Toronto-based Hollinger, and in turn his newspaper empire, through a privately held Toronto firm called Ravelston Corp. Ltd. Ravelston is now in receivership and Black’s control over it has been restricted.
Still, there had been speculation that, had he been acquitted, he might have tried to regain control of Sun-Times. But Herbert Denton, a member of Sun-Times’ board of directors, told Bloomberg the threat has now all but disappeared.
… Denton said the guilty verdict should help Sun-Times recoup millions that it says Black stole from the company. Investors pushed up the publisher’s shares 13 cents to close at $5.35 (U.S.) in New York.Black began dismantling Hollinger’s media empire in 1998 to pay help pay down debts. He resigned as CEO of Hollinger International in 2003 after a company probe into payments he received from buyers of Hollinger International newspapers.
The sell-off continued after Black was ousted as chair of Hollinger International in 2004. Today, the firm’s shares are worth about half of what they were three years ago.
Here is the trial in quotes:
* “My libel suits… have been patiently waiting like racehorses at the starting gates.” – Conrad Black, before the trial began.
* “Bank robbers wear masks and use guns. Burglars wear dark clothing and use a crowbar. These four, three lawyers and an accountant, dressed in ties and wore a suit.” – Assistant US attorney Jeffrey Cramer in his opening statement.
* “Conrad Black suggested that we insert ourselves in the non-compete process and I agreed.” – Black’s long-term friend and key witness David Radler, who pleaded guilty and co-operated with the US government in return for a more lenient sentence.
* “I don’t think he has any credibility. I don’t think any jury in the world would convict anybody on the basis of what he said.” – Black on Radler.
* “You do not have to believe a single word that David Radler said to you to convict every single one of these defendants. David Radler’s a criminal fraudster. He lied to the court, he lied to shareholders and he lied to us.” – Assistant US attorney Eric Sussman on Radler’s role.
* “Conrad Black and David Radler nested together for over 30 years.” – Mr Sussman as he told the jury Black did not want to work with “boy scouts” and “strait-laced” business partners.
* “I missed it.” – Richard Burt, the former US ambassador to Germany and one-time director at Hollinger International, on not seeing non-compete agreements in documents.
* “Are you taught this? Is there some kind of skimming school?” – Black’s defence lawyer Edward Greenspan to James Thompson, a former Illinois governor and former chairman of Hollinger International’s audit committee, who testified he only “skimmed” key documents.
* “They are either Olympic liars or Olympic skimmers.” – Mr Greenspan on Hollinger’s audit committee.
* “These non-competes smell to high heaven… These were fraud.” – Mr Sussman, prosecuting.
* “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. We felt like geriatric freaks among a sea of honeymooners – loutish young men and their perky wives.” – Black, in an email to New York Sun newspaper editor Seth Lipsky, on his trip to Bora Bora.
* “Bora Bora didn’t fit into my .125cost.375 allocation methodology.” – Fred Creasey, an official at Hollinger International, on Black’s use of a company jet at a cost of 565,326 dollars (Â£281,152).
* “It’s war. I’m on an inexorable march to victory… I see the trend. My strategy is working.” – Black, outside court.
* “If you can’t control him… I’d be happy to do it.” – Judge Amy St Eve as she told lawyers to stop Black from talking publicly.
* “My advice to Mr Black was to be a little bit more humble. I suggested he take a more quiet tone. I thought it was in the best interest of the company.” – Marie-Josee Kravis, a former Hollinger director.
* “He knew, ladies and gentleman, he knew.” – Assistant US attorney Julie Ruder on Black’s alleged knowledge of the non-compete agreements.
* “The rules don’t apply to Conrad Black. He wanted those documents out and he took them. Classic, classic Conrad Black.” – Ms Ruder on Black’s removal of 13 boxes of documents from his Toronto offices despite a ban on taking away anything that could be federal grand jury evidence.
* “There was no sackcloth and ashes for him.” – Ms Ruder on Black’s lifestyle.
* “There are some days when the numbers get so high you just have to dump a bucket of iced water over your head.” – Mr Sussman, prosecuting, told jurors at the end of the trial
* “He is different than you and me. He’s a rich man. But in America, you do not convict someone for being rich.” – Mr Greenspan, as he asked the jury not to convict Black because of his “wealth, lifestyle or vocabulary”.
* “You’re all vermin. I used to be a journalist. I’m sick of it.” – Barbara Amiel Black to journalists as the trial opened. She also called a CBC producer “a slut”.
Finally, Lord Black in quotes:
The world according to Conrad Black TheStar.com – Special – The world according to Conrad Black
An anthology of Black quotes
March 11, 2007
Compiled by David Olive
On Lyndon Johnson, in 1969: “A less patient and dedicated man, when taunted incessantly with the chant, ‘Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?’ might have been tempted to reply: ‘None, unfortunately.'” On Norman Mailer, in 1969: “The bedraggled warhorse of American blowhardism.”
On U.S. “Black Power” leaders, in 1969: “Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and other members of the criminal lunatic fringe.”
On U.S. senator and recent presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, in 1969: “Hisâ€¦recent erratic conduct has caused many to wonder if he is even fit to continue as a mediocre, lazy and temperamental Senator let alone preside over the nation.”
On U.S. senator and former U.S. attorney general Robert Kennedy, in 1969: “Bobby Kennedy, as the inimitable opportunist of contemporary American affairs, bubbled naturally to the top of this political cesspool â€“ the wartime President’s traditional cup of hemlock.”
On U.S. syndicated columnist Stewart Alsop in 1969: “Stewart Alsop, one of the more torrential snivelers of the American pressâ€¦”
On Canadian historian Ramsay Cook, who penned a critical review of Black’s biography of former Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, in 1976: “[Cook is a] slanted, supercilious little twit [with] the professional ethics of a cockroach.”
On the limits to power, interviewed by biographer Peter C. Newman in the 1970s: “I have always felt it was the compulsive element in Napoleon that drew him into greater and greater undertakings, until he was bound to fail.”
On his press coverage, after taking control of conglomerate Argus Corp. Ltd. in 1978: “I’m reasonably upwardly mobile, but I’m not the ravening megalomaniac you read in the press.”
On journalists, in the Winter 1979-80 edition of the Carleton [University] Journalism Review: “My experience with journalists authorizes me to record that a very large number of them are ignorant, lazy, opinionated, intellectually dishonest, and inadequately supervised. The â€˜profession’ is heavily cluttered with abrasive youngsters who substitute â€˜commitment’ for insight, and to a lesser extent, with aged hacks toiling through a miasma of mounting decrepitude. Alcoholism is endemic in both groups.” [Carleton University is located in Ottawa, Ont.]
On Massey-Ferguson: “We took the roller coaster ride all the way down with Massey and we plan to ride it all the way back up.” â€“June 2, 1980 (cited in Canadian Business magazine, July 1981).
On his critics, after stepping down in 1980 as chairman of a troubled Massey-Ferguson, which he had vowed to rescue: “I am amazed by the number of so-called financial experts who are luxuriating in the view that I am some sort of punch-drunk prizefighter on the ropes. Well, screw them.” Cited in Canadian Business magazine, July 1981. Black donated Argus’s M-F shares to the company’s unionized employees. M-F reinvents itself as an auto-parts maker, and is eventually merged out of existence.
On financial dealings among his partners in public companies deemed by critics to be needlessly convoluted, in 1981: “The only charge that anyone can level against us is one of insufficient generosity to ourselves.”
On avarice, interview with Canadian journalist Peter C. Newman in his 1982 Black biography, The Establishment Man: “Greed has been severely underestimated and denigrated â€“ unfairly so, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with avarice as a motive, as long as it doesn’t lead to dishonest or anti-social conduct.” Cited in Canadian Business magazine, July 1983.
On the Reichmann clan of Olympia and York Developments Ltd. (ibid.), at a board meeting of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce: “I know how hard it is for some people here to believe that some guys with full beards who speak English like the Marx Brothers imitating Kaiser Wilhelm, wear thin lapels, black ties and unusual headgear could actually be worth a loan of this size. Well, they are.”
On his depiction in journalist Peter C. Newman’s 1982 The Establishment Man, the first Black biography, in a letter to Newman: “What is particularly irritating is that it is not open season on me, but upon a largely fictitious image that you created for me of a chillingly ruthless and rather conceited person, obsessed with materialism, pontificating endlessly, and viewing the world through the prism of a reactionary proprietor.”
On the Norcen probe by the department of Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurtry: “If I’m arrested, the papers will scream, â€˜Conrad Black’s on his way to theâ€¦memorial suite in Millhaven [penitentiary].” â€“Christmas Eve, 1982 phone call by Black to the Globe and Mail, in an hour-long conversation with a Globe reporter about the police investigation of Norcen Energy. Cited in Canadian Business magazine, July 1983.
On Hal Jackman: “Hal Jackman and I agree that we’re basically more Nietzschean than Hegelian.” â€“cited in Canadian Business magazine, July 1983.
On Dominion Stores Ltd.: “Dominion really had its lips firmly clamped on an exhaust pipe.” â€“Canadian Business magazine, September 1984
On Dominion Stores Ltd.: “It’s been a very difficult task for [Dominion head John] Toma, like fixing a plane in mid-air. Despite that, he’s produced a 180-degree turnaround.” â€“Canadian Business magazine, September 1984. Toma was fired soon thereafter, with legal action initiated against him by Black-related firms â€“ see Black’s 1994 memoir, A Life In Progress on the Dominion-Toma dispute. In conversation with CB staff writer David Olive in preparation for the September 1984 article, Black said that morale at Dominion Stores was high, at last; that Toma, now in his early fifties and who began his career 33 years ago as a produce clerk in Chatham, Ont., had relatively recently disobeyed doctors’ orders and returned to work only a couple of weeks after undergoing quadruple-bypass heart surgery, for which Black lauded him.
On Dominion Stores Ltd.: “The old Dominion Stores was a dead pigeon and everyone in his right mind knew it.” â€“ in the Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business Magazine, December 1985.
On Dominion Stores Ltd. employees during a pension dispute, accusing the grocery chain’s employees of stealing $30 million in produce each year, in a 1986 Globe and Mail interview: “It’s sometimes difficult for me to work myself into an absolute lacrimose fit about a work force that steals on that scaleâ€¦We are not running a welfare agency for corrupt union leaders and a slovenly work force.”
On Canada’s U.N. ambassador, Stephen Lewis, in 1987: “His clangorous tambourine-rattling on behalf of the United Nations…”
On newspaper columnist Michele Landsberg, wife of Lewis, in 1987: “If only [Lewis} could now persuade his columnist wife, Michele Landsberg, to moderate her pathologically anti-American ravings in the Globe and Mail.”
On Ontario NDP leader Michael Cassidy, in 1987: “Long among the most nauseating people in Canadian public life.”
On U.S. Democratic senators opposed to the appointment of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1988: “Teddy Kennedy proved, at Chappaquiddick in 1969, to be a role model for Geraldine Ferraro, Gary Hart and Joe Biden. It is galling to see such mendacious hypocrites as Kennedy and Biden at the Senate Judiciary Committee sitting in judgment on distinguished jurists.”
On John Ralston Saul, author, philosopher and husband of future Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, in 1988, responding to an unflattering Saul profile of Black in Britain’s Spectator magazine: “[Saul is]a familiar and somewhat pitiful figure who has hovered and festered for some years on the fringes of Canadian government and fiction writing. Those who would retain his services should confine him to subjects better suitedâ€¦to his sniggering, puerile, defamatory and cruelly limited talents.”
On journalists, in a 1989 Toronto Sun column: The “swarming, grunting masses of jackals calling themselves â€˜investigative journalists.'”
On Toronto’s Upper Canada College, where he was expelled for stealing and selling exam papers, in his 1993 memoir, Conrad Black: A Life In Progress: “All those who, by their docility or obsequiousness, legitimized the excesses of the school’s penal system, the several sadists and few aggressively fondling homosexuals on the faculty, and the more numerous swaggering boobies who had obviously failed in the real world and retreated to Lilliput where they could maintain their exalted status by constant threat of battery: all gradually produced in me a profound revulsion.”
On professional managers vs. owner-managers (ibid.): “My natural sympathies are with the proprietors, whose own money is at stake. Too often I have seen non-proprietorial managers focus on keeping others at bay, expanding their companies unwisely and steadily improving their own financial condition irrespective of performance. The proprietor-manager implicitly accepts responsibility for his actions, the consequences of his mistakes, the reward for his successes.”
On the late John “Bud” McDougald, whom Black succeeded as head of the Argus empire (ibid.): “Bud’s chiseling was also unseemly for someone with such a hefty bank balance. It was unbecoming for him to make his trips to London on contra tickets from CFRB (tickets the radio station obtained in exchange for advertising) and to snitch Massey-Ferguson’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V at an artificially low, depreciated valueâ€¦McDougald’s lassitude, greed, and vanity were not constructive influences in the Argus Group.”
On Doris Phillips and “Jim” McDougald, the widows whose cooperation was key to Black’s gaining control of conglomerate Argus Corp. Ltd. (ibid.): “The whole arrangement was requested by the rapacious ladies, vetted by them, explained labouriously to them in monosyllables and with examples adapted to the mind of a child of 10, and they understood and approved every letter and every word of the agreement.”
On then-Ontario attorney-general Roy McMurtry, who conducted an inquiry into Black’s business conduct in the 1980s (ibid.): “Roy had scrambled about through our records like an asphyxiated cockroach for over a year and come up empty-handedâ€¦The police had acted like Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Koestlerian thugs. The attorney general was wholly spineless.”
On Andrew Knight, the British journalist who urged Black to make the most successful investment of his career, buying the Daily Telegraph, and was installed by Black as the Telegraph’s publisher before the two had a falling-out (ibid.): “His pessimistic, divisive, erratic, and joyless management style had brought a group that should have been celebrating one of the world’s greatest newspaper turnarounds to a squalid and demoralized level of constant internecine dispute.”
On Australian tycoon Kerry Packer, Black’s partner in attempting to acquire control of Australia’s Fairfax newspaper chain (ibid.): “A large man, more interested in polo than anything else, he had the usual Australian male’s penchant for sex, salacity, and vulgarity.”
On British press baron Robert Maxwell (ibid.): He “denied he was a Jew prior to his virtual Napoleonic self-coronation as King of Judea.”
On U.S. developer Mort Zuckerman, who bested Black in a bid for the New York Daily News (ibid.): “[Zuckerman has] “demonstrated again that the bane of the newspaper industry has been the well-to-do amateur making non-economic deals to get into the glamour and influence business, especially in very large cities.”
On Hollinger International director Henry Kissinger (ibid.): “His unique Katzenjammer accent that often makes him sound like the Marx Brothers imitating Kaiser Wilhelm.”
On the Daily Telegraph (ibid.): “The key to the Daily Telegraph‘s immense success was a formula devised by Lord Camrose and faithfully continued by his son, Lord Hartwell, consisting of an excellent, fair, concise, informative newspaper; good sports coverage; a page three in which the kinkiest, gamiest, most salacious and most scatological stories in Britain were set out in the most apparently sober manner, but with sadistically explicit quotations from court transcripts; and extreme veneration of the Royal Family.”
On Canada (ibid.): “The destructive fixation of the envious English-Canadian mind requires that the highest, happiest most agile flyers be laid low. [It is] a sadistic desire corroded by soul-destroying envy, to intimidate all those who might aspire to anything the slightest exceptional.”
On modesty, Wall Street Journal interview, Nov. 8, 1994: “Humility is a good quality, but it can be overdone.”
On critics, parting words to a 1994 gathering of Bay Street financiers at Toronto’s National Club: “Anyone who wants to get something off their chest should do it â€“ even if I sue you for it.”
On defending capitalism, interview with journalist Richard Siklos in his 1995 Black biography, Shades of Black: “The conservative philosophy of capitalists, until recently, made a very poor showing in the history of ideas. Businessmen largely have been unable or unwilling to defend themselves with words; and even when they tried, they long tended to bellow ultra-right clichÃ©s like wounded dinosaurs, much to the amusement of the intellectual left.”
On household staff, purportedly the source of unflattering information about former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney in journalist Stevie Cameron’s book On The Take, in a 1995 Saturday Night review of the book: “A notoriously unreliable group, as any experienced employer of such people knows.”
On household staff (ibid): “Hegel wrote that no one is a hero to his valet, not because he isn’t a hero, but because the valet is a valet.”
On Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, who expressed solidarity with striking employees at the Hollinger International-owned Calgary Herald, in a 2000 Herald column: “If your jumped-up little twerp of a bishop thinks I’m not a very good Catholic, I think he’s a prime candidate for exorcism.” For good measure, Black refers to the striking workers as “gangrenous limbs.”
On a trip to Bora Bora with wife Barbara Amiel: “We just got back yesterday from a shambles of a trip to the South Pacific, where I came down with bronchitis and almost drowned snorkeling as a resultâ€¦We felt like geriatric freaks among a sea of honeymooners â€“ 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.” â€“Aug. 22, 2001 email response a few days after Black returned from the controversial $565,326 trip to a phone message left by Seth Lipsky, editor of the New York Sun, in Black’s absence. (Black cofounded the tiny, right-wing Sun. The email was presented as evidence on Apr. 10, 2007 at Black’s fraud trial in Chicago.)
On the British House of Lords, interviewed by a National Post reporter upon his induction, Oct. 31, 2001: “It’s like a club. And in the United Kingdom, if they ever brought back the death penalty, apart from cruelty to dogs and queue-jumping, it would be for bumptiousness in a club. I shall not commit that heinous offence.”
On Canada, a few days after his induction into the British House of Lords and new permanent residence in London, at a November 2001 speech to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute: “[Leaving Canada has been] my gesture against the condition Irving Layton described 35 years ago as the Canadian political and intellectual communities’ tendency to regard â€˜cowardice as wisdom, philistinism as Olympian serenity and the spitefulness of the weak as moral indignation. Surely we, or as I must now say, with some regret, you, can do better than this.”
On the anti-Americanism of the Canadian media (ibid): “Canada’s media should have done a more efficient job than they have of informing Canadians of [the Americans’) exemplary competitive performance. Instead, Canadian media have tended to focus excessively on perceived American shortcomings.”
On Richard Desmond, publisher of the U.K. Sunday Express, who was eager to buy Black’s Daily Telegraph, in a 2002 interview: “[The Express] is published by a mutant smut and defamation company, run by a pornographer and a couple of ex-convicts. These people would have trouble raising L10 from any capital market. Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Desmond.” In response to a defamation suit brought against Black by Desmond, Express Newspapers and certain Express Newspapers directors, Black withdrew the statement as part of other matters the Express and Telegraph were litigating.
On minority investors, in an Aug. 3, 2002 internal HI e-mail sent to two fellow HI officers, cited in George Tombs’s 1994 Black book, Lord Black: The Biography: “We have said for some time that (HI) served no purpose as a listed company other than relatively cheap use of other people’s capital, and privatization noises have been audible for a long time. We now have an unsatisfactory situation where a number of the shareholders think we are deliberately suppressing the stock price, some others think we are running a gravy train and a gerrymandered share structure, and we think they are a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites and ingrates, who give us no credit for what has been a skilful job of building and pruning a company in difficult circumstances just ahead of seismic financial events.”
On his use of corporate aircraft, in an Aug. 5, 2002 internal HI e-mail sent to a fellow HI officer (ibid.): “There has not been an occasion for many months when I got on our plane without wondering whether it was really affordable. But I’m not prepared to re-enact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of nobility. We have to find a balance between an unfair taxation on the company and a reasonable treatment of the founders-builders-managers. We are proprietors, after all, beleaguered though we may be.”
On Anglo-American relations, in his Ruttenberg Lecture for the Centre for Policy Studies, in February 2003: “In general, the prime minister [Tony Blair] has done a commendable job of facing down the lobotomous old Left in his own party, being close but not obsequious to Washington, and recreating Pitt the Younger as he has coordinated Iraq policy with the European countries tired of being browbeaten by the French and Germans.”
On his critics, after a downgrading of the credit ratings of Toronto-based Hollinger Inc., controlling shareholder of Hollinger International, in an April 2003 London Times interview: “We are not running a Christian Scientists’ meeting here where we all have to sing from the same hymn sheet. Anybody who complains about it can take a hike.”
On corporate governance, in May 2003: “Like all fads, corporate governance has its zealots.”
On corporate governance, after the Black-controlled HI in May 2003 says it will create a special committee of directors to probe Tweedy Browne’s concerns: “I have no fear that any seriously bad behaviour can be found. None has occurred. We will do our best to ensure that corporate-governance fanatics don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
On corporate governance, in June 2003: “This corporate governance thing in the United States is a sideshow. It’s just a public relations stunt really.”
On the BBC, in a July 2003 letter to the Daily Telegraph on the BBC’s “pathologically hostile” coverage of the Blair government, and it broadcaster’s role in the David Kelly affair: “[The BBC] has become the greatest menace facing the country it was founded to serve and inform.”
On his press coverage, in an August 2003 London Times interview, while struggling to secure a private-equity cash injection for his empire: “I’m not on the ropes. I’m fine. And no, I’m not in the hands of creditors. I’m watching with some mystification the work of the Fleet Street assassination squads. But they haven’t even scored a flesh wound. It’s becoming rather tiresome.”
On disgruntled minority investors in one of his publicly traded enterprises, interviewed in an October 2003 edition of Fortune: “I think what you saw at the annual meeting was this impatience. It reminds me of when our children were bottle-fed. They were great, healthy, big babies â€“ real bruisers. They got to the end of the bottle, and being very inexperienced infants, they wanted more. In fact there was nothing left in the bottle because the contents were inside them. They didn’t figure out the implications.”
On his press coverage, to reporters on the day of his ouster as CEO of Hollinger International on Nov. 17, 2003: “I urge you, no matter how addicted you are to representing me as having been shamed, disgraced and chased out as a scoundrel, to contemplate the possibility that there’s just a chance that I might be innocent. As time will prove, I am.”
On his removal as CEO of Hollinger International, Nov. 17, 2003: “There’s absolutely no question about the probity of my own behaviour in these matters. I suppose I’m having a two-minute period in the penalty box.”
On Gordon Paris, the investment banker selected to replace the ousted Black at the helm of Hollinger International, in a face-to-face encounter in November 2003, cited by authors Jacquie McNish and Sinclair Stewart’s Black biography, Wrong Way: The Fall of Conrad Black: “You are spectacularly unqualified. The idea that [you] should replace meâ€¦is too humiliating.”
On new members of the HI board, in a Jan. 4, 2004 meeting cited by author Richard Siklos in his revised 2004 Shades of Black: “I have my rights, and I know where Ray Seitz has property in England and I know where Graham Savage lives in Toronto, and I’m going to launch a defamation action against them and their advisers, and I will take all their property and I will hold them accountable.”
On his prosecutorial tormentors, in a January 2004 e-mail to filmmaker Debbie Melnyk, who was completing a documentary about Black: “I am in excellent health and spirits and, given the malice, cowardice and savagery of the onslaught against me, am reasonably satisfied with recent and prospective progress. The committee has thrown down the mask and shown itself as a Stalin show trial; the courts will provide justice in the end and my enemies will not enjoy the process.”
On his philosophy, to reporters after attending a Hollinger Inc. meeting in Toronto, May 27, 2004: “Darwinian capitalism, as always.”
On Canada, Wall Street Journal op-ed essay, June 23, 2004: “Canada is probably more closely integrated with the American economy than is the state of California. None of this inhibits the independent fantasies of most Canadians.”
On Richard Breeden, advisor to Hollinger International’s special board committee probing Black’s conduct, in a summer 2004 letter to an investor, reported in an Eric Reguly column in the Globe and Mail: “We are fighting truly evil people,” including “Breeden and his fascistsâ€¦who are a menace to capitalism as any sane and civilized person would define it.”
On his role in the Hollinger International debacle, interviewed in August 2004 by Richard Siklos for his revised 2004 biography, Shades of Black: “I must hold myself primarily responsible. I had a view of how the company should be run and of the limits to which a controlled company that had been built by the majority shareholder should collegialize its management. I had the full support of the directors. I underestimated the force of the corporate governance movement. I believe my skepticism toward that movement and its exponents within our company was well-founded, but I must secondly blame the legal personnel of the company for leaving the vulnerability of incomplete documentation that they did. Without that, we would have come through the special committee process unscathed.”
On film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, a former Black employee when Black was CEO of Sun-Times owner Hollinger International, in an October 2004 letter to Ebert after learning the critic had sided with Sun-Times reporters in a bargaining dispute: “I vividly recall your avaricious negotiating techniques through your lawyer, replete with threats to quit, and your generous treatment from [Black colleague] David Radler, which yielded you an income of over $500,000 [U.S.] per year from usâ€¦Your proletarian posturing on behalf of those threatening to strike the Sun-Times and your base ingratitude are very tiresome.”
On media baron Rupert Murdoch, in a 2004 interview with biographer George Tombs: “He is so cynical, he has no feel for product quality or integrity.”
On the price war between Murdoch’s London Times and Black’s Daily Telegraph (ibid.): “It was a hideously expensive failure [for Murdoch]. He was able to hide the figures in [Murdoch holding company] News Corp. and its Australian accounting practices.”
On his fate, in an e-mail to Black documentary maker Debbie Melynk, reported in the National Post, Oct. 14, 2004: “It will startle and disappoint an entire burgeoning industry of pundits, eulogists and curio-vendors, but I’m far from dead.” Black elaborated: “When everyone is finished dancing on my grave, they may be disconcerted to find I am not in it.” Black also corrected the false impression given by a famous photograph of his appearance with Barbara Amiel Black at a British costume party: “I wasn’t Richelieu, who had a goatee, just a cardinal, because it was the last costume available at the place I went to rent one, and my wife wasn’t Marie Antoinette, only a barmaid.”
On his trans-Atlantic reputation, interviewed in George Tombs’s Lord Black: The Biography, and excerpted in the National Post, Nov. 26, 2004: “I appreciate the absurdity of the situation in which I am persecuted in the United States and reviled in Canada and Britain for being pro-American. In all three countries, the zeitgeist is hostile and there is a great hostility to executives who can be portrayed as self-indulgent, and a tendency to regard anyone in my position as a crookâ€¦”
On his reputation, reacting to a Delaware courtroom setback, in a London Times interview: “I assume the sadistic fascination with my life will eventually come to an end.”
On his reputation, May 30, 2005 Fortune interview: “I have no doubt that mothers in America use my name to frighten their children into finishing their vegetables.”
On his fate, May 30, 2005 interview in Fortune: “[I am a] victim of corporate governance terrorists.”
On his fate, in a rumoured conversation with guests at the January 2005 wedding of Donald Trump and Melania Knauss, reported in the New York Times: “Don’t write me off. I’m about to become a corporate-governance counterterrorist.”
On Montreal institutional investor and billionaire Stephen Jarislowsky, a long-time critic of Black’s regard for corporate governance, in a June 9, 2005 letter in the Toronto Star: “If anyone’s conduct should have been the subject of official curiosity, it was his. And as between us, it was Jarislowsky and not I who was recently heavily fined by a Canadian securities regulator.”
On former Canadian prime minister Jean ChrÃ©tien, who blocked Black’s acceptance of a British peerage, forcing Black to renounce his Canadian citizenship in order to enter the British House of Lords, in a Nov. 5, 2005 essay in the National Post: “[Jean ChrÃ©tien] has always laid claim to a moral high ground he did not occupy, and certainly does not in this case. His behaviour [in the Canadian ‘sponsorship scandal’] was not corrupt, nor even probably negligent, but his political judgment was defective, and given his habitual moral posturing, he may also have been guilty of hypocrisy. This is not a crime, but it is unbecoming in a leader, especially a leader complicit in the colossal defamation of his predecessor [Brian Mulroney, a one-time Black employee as CEO of Black-controlled Iron Ore Co. of Canada] in the infamous Airbus affair.”
On his fate, interview with Canadian reporters, Nov. 23, 2005: “There’s no truth or substance whatsoever to these chargesâ€¦.This has been one massive smear job form A to Z, and it will have a surprise endingâ€¦[The ending will amount to] a complete vindication of the defendants, and exposure of their persecutorsâ€¦This isn’t Enron, this isn’t WorldCom. This was a magnificent company that the people who have seized it and used it as a platform from which to persecute and defame the people who built it have torn apart and destroyed to the expense of the shareholder.”
On his fate, press scrum after his fingerprinting and mug-shot photo at a Chicago courthouse, Dec. 1, 2005: “I wanted to see my accusers and get rid of this nonsense. The prosecutors tried to strangle me and defame me for two years.”
On his fate, Feb. 11, 2006 press scrum with reporters after his third Chicago court appearance: “I want to get on with it. I want to expose this case for the complete fraud that it is.”
On his fate, June 29, 2006 interview with Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin: “Canadians suspect, if only intuitively, the corruption of the American prosecutorial system and I have made the transition from being perceived as a plutocrat to an underdogâ€¦I am undauntedâ€¦When the case is exposed as the unmitigated farrago of lies and defamations that it is, the exhilaration at having defeated the most powerful organization in the world â€“ not just the so-called Justice Department, but the SEC, IRS, and their Canadian quislings as well â€“ will be very great and I will resume my career fortified.”
On the United States (ibid.): “After what I’ve been subjected to, and what is still to come, I cannot claim much residual affection for it as a country.”
On Canada (ibid.): “My opinion of Canada has changedâ€¦Canada has become so astronomically rich that it has a colossal opportunityâ€¦accentuated by the development for the first time since before the First World War of a real two-party system. The collapse of the separatist threat in Quebec and the rise of Alberta also take the inevitability out of endless drift to the left.”
On his fate, after U.S. prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked a Chicago court to increase Black’s $20-million (U.S.) bail and require wife Barbara Amiel Black to reveal financial statements under oath, in an Aug. 10, 2006 statement by his lawyers: “The [U.S.] government’s performance is shameful. In a case in which the international press and people all over the world may wonder how American prosecutors conduct themselves, the government has filed another histrionic, inaccurate press release masquerading as a federal court pleading.” (The court did increase Black’s bail, by $1 million U.S., but did not require Barbara Amiel Black to reveal her financial affairs under oath.)
On his current status, Sept. 25, 2006 interview by Steve Paikin on TVO’s “The Agenda”: “I’ve settled into my new life as a freedom fighter.”
On Canada (ibid.), defending its military role in Afghanistan: “Canada is a country that I think has become accustomed to thinking of itself as a middle power and a secondary country. And yet there are 191 members of the United Nations and Canada’s undoubtedly one of the top 10 most important countries in the U.N. and it isn’t a middle power; it’s a very important country. And we have to act like that.”
On his new reputation, March 3, 2007 interview with Canada’s National Post newspaper: “It took an adjustment for people to think of me as an underdog, but that’s what has happened. And compared to the U.S. government, the most powerful institution in the world, most everybody is an underdog.”
On his pro-Americanism, op-ed essay, National Post, Mar. 10, 2007: “There was great irony, whose piquancy was never lost on me, that I, who have been denounced in the Parliaments of the U.K. and Canada for excessive pro-Americanism, should be so savagely attacked by the U.S. prosecution system.”
On the United States (ibid.): “Despite its legal vagaries, the United States remains the indispensable country of Western civilization of the last century, a society of laws in a largely lawless world, and a country overwhelmingly composed of decent people.”
On Canada (ibid.): “It has been a splendid time to be in Canada. A united Conservative party, for which I and many others have fought, has produced a federal two-party system for the first time in a hundred years in Canada. The huge economic growth of China and India has enabled Canada to keep its generous social benefits and reduce taxes to a point where the brain drain to the U.S. should now dry upâ€¦Canada has become one of the 10 or 12 most important countries of the 192 in the world. Those of us brought up to believe that Canada’s foreign policy was to tug at the trouser-leg of the Americans and British must realize that it is unnecessary and undignified to continue to do soâ€¦I have never been happier to be Canadian.”
On his trial prospects (ibid.): “Barbara and I go now to try these issues at the bar of Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, in the city that I have long regarded as the great, brave heart of America. We have survived the â€˜shock and awe’ campaign of intimidation, defamation and asset seizures. We built a great company that our accusers have destroyed by their own profit, as they have been sumptuously paid to obliterate over a billion dollars of shareholder market value. We acted lawfully and are not afraid.” [In a subsequent Maclean’s magazine essay, Black corrects an imprecision, rephrasing “more or less at the bar of Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow.”]
On his trial prospects, Maclean’s magazine essay, Mar. 19, 2007: “Those with any interest will soon be able to determine whether the braying, hideous tricoteuses among my accusers, especially in the British press, the prosecutors’ most obedient cheering section, or my supporters and I, have spoken the truth. It will be a relief to expose my accusers and their parrots and their false charges.”
On American jurisprudence, from his 2007 biography, The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Nixon: “The American prosecutorial system encourages a system of suborned or intimidated perjury, or at least spontaneous clarity of recollection, to move upwards in the inculpation of officials in any organization where wrongdoing is alleged.
Plea bargains are negotiated by threat and financial strangulation and reduction of penalties, as lower echelons roll over in sequence blaming higher-ups.”
“[It is] a questionable system, which led decades later to the installation of the ‘whistleblower’ â€“ i.e., the squealer â€“ as one of the central figures in American commerce.”