Canadian born Lord Conrad Black, once the third largest publisher of newspapers in the world, has been charged in Chicago with 17 counts ranging from obstruction of justice to racketeering. He has been accused of stealing money from the companies he controlled but didn't own.
It is hoped that Lord Black of Crossharbour might not be going the same route as twenties gangster, Al Capone, who also was charged with tax evasion and convicted in Chicago. Both seemed convinced of their right to do whatever they pleased.
Though this is a big event in Canada — most every newspaper, magazine and media outlet has written at length about it — there has been small interest in the US. In cases like Enron and WorldCom investors lost their life savings. Lord Black's investors did not: if anything, they gained. He is, however, accused of taking personal spending money out the corporate kitty, money technically belonging to the shareholders.
Lord Black of Crossharbour was born in 1944 in Montreal, the son of a brewery executive who had been dismissed by "Bud" McDougal, robber capitalist head of Argus Corporation, but left with a golden handshake, in the millions. His rich but unemployed father, who was eccentric, tutored young Conrad.
At Upper Canada College, a Toronto private elementary and high school, Black was expelled for stealing exam papers and selling them to fellow students, some who could not possibly have ended up with results they achieved without help.
The UCC students already predicted that he wanted to become a "Lord". Asked what he would do then, the answer was, "probably fold." Scary prognosis from the early sixties.
He then meandered through a number of private high schools and universities, wandering through Carleton in Ottawa, then ending with a law degree from Laval in Quebec City and a masters degree in history from McGill in Montreal, the later two both top-drawer schools.
In 1977, in Montreal he, along with a schoolmate, he started buying up small newspapers, gutting them and running them at greater profit, all the while keeping an eye on his father’s nemesis, "Bud" McDougal, who, while controlling companies that he had but a twenty-five percent interest, kept gutting institutions to leverage future purchases. McDougal was able keep that "shell game" going by maintaining an image of opulent wealth.
In 1978, when McDougal died, Black swung into action and convinced the two majority shareholding widows of Argus to give him control in what was considered by some as a "con".
What resulted was corporate wheeling and dealing also involving Black trying to plunder the Dominion stores pension fund. The courts stopped that endeavour. His activities ranged from newspapers to mining.
His march to lordship took a large step when he noted the Daily Telegraph in London, England was in financial trouble. It is a known fact that those who own a London daily newspaper become a "Lord" and Black went for it like a fly to honey.
In his inimitable fashion Black made some deals with the owners of the Daily Telegraph that were said to be questionable, some which he bragged about later.
"Lordship" was not quite instantaneous since he had to give up his Canadian citizenship, because he had insulted then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who would not give him permission to gain the honour.
Black received his Lordship on October 31, 2001. One of his nominators was former British Prime Minister, "the Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher. And as for the rest — well, I guess he, as promised, "folded".
Lord Conrad Black goes to court (9)