THE TRIUMPHS, TRAGEDIES AND FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CONRAD M. BLACK
(Aug. 25) Conrad Moffat Black born in
Montreal. 1959 (June) Black is
expelled from Upper Canada College for selling exams to students. “It was all organized with James Bond élan and was the first example of Conrad’s administrative brilliance.”—Ralph Heintzman, UCC student at the time.
Black’s father enrolls him in Trinity College School, but he’s “almost compulsively insubordinate,” and is kicked out.
He eventually graduates from Thornton Hall.
B.A. in history from Carleton University.
IQAQ The Black la/Uaf family and other shareholders found Ravelston
as a holding company for investments.
(June) Black, Peter White, a friend from Carleton, and David Radler buy the moneylosing Sherbrooke Record for $20,000. They slash expenses and turn a profit. Black later tells a parliamentary committee that he regards many journalists as “ignorant, lazy, opinionated, intellectually dishonest and inadequately supervised.”
Black graduates in civil law from Laval.
Earns an M.A. in history from McGill.
1974 (July 26) Black labels the Bourassa government as “the most financially and intellectually corrupt in the history of the province,” adding there is a “paralytic social sickness in
Quebec.” That night he leaves for Toronto.
(June 19) Black’s mother, Jean, dies.
(June 29) Black’s father dies. “My father, George Montegu Black, Jr., was... cultured, humorous, enigmatic, and in his later years, rather melancholy,” Black wrote later. On the night of his death “my father and I had a little conversation, one more effort to bridge the gap of years and pathos that
separates a man from his son. He called me ‘a good son.’ It was a deeply affecting exchange.” Backed by the family’s stock holdings, he joins the Argus and Ravelston boards.
(December) Publishes a definitive biography of the late Quebec premier, Maurice Duplessis.
(May) Two months after the death of John “Bud” McDougald, the head of Argus, his widow and
sister-in-law sign documents that will give Black control of Ravelston and the huge Argus conglomerate. “I’m reasonably upwardly mobile, but I’m not the ravening megalomaniac you read in the press.”
(July 14) Black marries Shirley Walters, describing himself as a historian on the marriage application. (They have two sons and a daughter.)
(Oct. 2) Black resigns as chairman
of troubled manufacturer Massey-Ferguson. Responding to critics of his business strategies, Black declares: “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.” He goes on to sell off most of Argus’s assets, transfer much of the rest into what will become Hollinger Inc., and focus on the newspaper business.
1AQr (Spring) Black buys 1707 a stake in the Telegraph newspaper group of Britain, and soon gets control.
1QQQ (June) The Black 1707 family leaves Toronto for London.
“I decided Canada and I needed a rest from each other.”
(June) His divorce from Joanna (Shirley changed her name in 1990) is finalized.
(July 2l) Black marries Barbara Amiel. “Beautiful, brilliant, ideologically a robust kindred spirit, a talented writer and galvanizing speaker, chic, humorous, preternaturally sexy... a cordial acquaintance for many years, she shortly became the summit of my most ardent and uncompromising desires,” Black wrote later.
ÎQQA (May) Hollinger
177*ï International goes public in the United States. Most of Hollinger Inc.’s newspaper assets will be transferred to International.
1QQ£ (May) Hollinger 17 7 U gains control of the Southam chain of newspapers, giving Black 59 of Canada’s 105 dailies, and arousing howls of protest over Black’s increasing dominance over the industry. Black suggests the critics should “seek out whatever therapy is necessary to overcome the trauma of past abrasions and learn to distinguish the friends of the craft from its enemies.”
(Oct. 27) The
National Post is
“I know that some people are
convinced that it’s an insane enterprise,” says Black. “But I don’t know— I think the elements are quite positive. It’s a strong launch. And really any person of conscient age in this country will have to be braindead if they haven’t heard of it.”
(June 18) Black, a dual CanadianBritish citizen, is denied a peerage by PM Jean Chrétien.
“I find it, as a Canadian living in Britain, slightly embarrassing that the Canadian government has behaved this way,” Black said. Black will later sue the government.
M (July 31) Black sells 13 large dailies, 136 smaller papers and 50 per cent of the National Post to Can West Global for $3.2 billion. “I don’t want anyone to think this is a
disguised method of starting a process to go out of the business altogether and sell out everything,” Black says.
“But I do not want anyone to think on the other hand it is just a bit of public relations to
try and get some speculative fizz on the stock.”
(May 18) After losing
his court case, Black
announces he’s giving up his
Canadian citizenship because “I am thus now the only adult, sane, solvent, unincarcerated
citizen of the United Kingdom
ineligible to receive an honour
in that country.”
(Oct. 31) Black takes his seat in the House of Lords with the title of Lord Black of Crossharbour. “Renouncing my citizenship was the last and most consistent act of dissent I could pose against a public
policy which I believe is depriving Canada of its right and duty to be one of the world’s great countries.”
(May 23) At International’s contentious annual meeting in New York City, investor Edward Shufro informs Black that disgruntled shareholders, angry over a languishing stock price and rising payments to Black and others, are “trying to be polite about it, but [what] they’re telling you is that they consider you a thief.”
(April 20) Black chides the critics of his large pay package:
“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.”
(May 19) Investment firm Tweedy Browne Co. sends a “demand letter” to International—and files it with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission—asking its directors to investigate lucrative payments to its executives, including Black and Radler, and seeks “disgorgement” of the funds.
(May 22) International announces it will establish a special committee to independently investigate Tweedy Browne’s allegations. “I have no fear that any seriously bad behaviour can be found. None has occurred,” Black says. “We will do our best to ensure that corporategovernance fanatics don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
(Nov. 17) Black steps down
as CEO of International after investigators report that US$32.15 million in payments were made to insiders, including Black, without approval. Radler steps down as president and COO of International, along with corporate counsel Mark Kipnis and director Peter Atkinson. John Boultbee, an executive vice-president is fired. “There’s absolutely no question about the probity of my own behaviour in these matters,” Black says. “I suppose I’m having a twominute period in the penalty box.”
1AAA (Jan. 18) Interfcvv4 national removes Black as chairman, and sues him, Radler, Ravelston and Hollinger Inc. for more than US$200 million, claiming their
actions caused the firm to incur years of “unreasonable and unjustifiable fees.”
(Feb. 13) Black launches an $850-million lawsuit against some of International’s directors and advisers, alleging that “false and malicious representations” about him have caused him to be “pilloried and mocked mercilessly in the media,” and made him a “social leper” and a “loathsome laughingstock.” (Feb. 26) After finding Black “evasive and unreliable,” a Delaware judge blocks Black’s sale of International to Scotland’s Barclay brothers. The ruling says that Black’s “explanations of key events and his own motivations do not have the ring of truth” and that he “breached his fiduciary and contractual duties persistently and seriously.”
(Aug. 3l) In a scathing 513-page report, International accuses Black, Radler and other execs of running a “corporate kleptocracy” that colluded to steal US$400 million from International to satisfy their “ravenous appetite for cash.” Black says the report is merely “recycling the same exaggerated claims laced with outright lies that have been peddled in leaks to the media” for months.
(Nov. 15) The SEC files civil fraud charges against Black, Radler and Inc.
)A|)r (March 29)
LVUJ Hollinger Inc. launches a $635-million lawsuit against Black and other insiders claiming they acted in “bad faith.”
(May 30) In response to questions about his legal situation, Black tells a
magazine reporter, “I have no doubt that mothers in America use my name to frighten their children into finishing their vegetables. But this is not a permanent state of affairs.”
(Aug. 18) U.S. federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald lays criminal fraud charges against Radler, lawyer Kipnis and Ravelston. Radler will plead guilty and agree to 29 months in jail and to co-operate with the government.
(Nov. 17) Fitzgerald announces criminal fraud charges against Black,
Boultbee and Atkinson as well as more against Kipnis, alleging that they took US$84 million from International. “There’s no truth or substance whatsoever to these charges,” Black says. “This has been one massive smear job from A to Z, and it will have a surprise
ending... a complete vindication of the defendants, and exposure of their persecutors.”
(Dec. 16) Black pleads not guilty and is released on a US$20-million bond. “It’s going to be a great trial.”
(June 23) Seeking to revoke his bail, prosecutors allege that Black misrepresented his worth. “Lord Black’s assets mysteriously increase in value without his knowledge [while] his debts diminish overnight.” (On Aug. 10 the judge increases Black’s bond by US$1 million in cash.)
(Sept. 15) Black’s lawyers ask the judge to throw out most of the U.S. criminal case, and complain that the prosecution has attacked him on the basis of his wealth, making it impossible for him to receive a fair trial. “Since Biblical times, and
probably before, the wealthy have been envied and condemned ...” On Dec. 21, the judge rules against him.
(Sept. 25) Black says he is going through “normal channels” to regain his Canadian citizenship. “I have settled into my new life as a freedom fighter.”
(January) Ravelston confirms that the company will plead guilty and co-operate with prosecutors.
(Feb. 19) Black launches an $11-million libel suit against author Tom Bower for his book Conrad & Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge. Bower’s “keyhole, smut-mongering side-piece portrayal of my wife as a maneating sex maniac prior to her marriage to me is disgusting.”
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