Conrad Black

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Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, 2013

Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour (born August 25, 1944 in Montréal , Canada ) is a former Canadian press magnate and British politician.

He dominated the print media of Canada, bought well-known newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph in London, The Jerusalem Post and the Sun Times in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s and built what was once the third largest after the groups of Rupert Murdoch and the Gannett Company, Inc. Newspaper empire in the world.

In 2003, internal and other investigations uncovered that Black and other top managers of his Canadian holding company Hollinger International had secretly embezzled around 84 million dollars past the supervisory board and the board members.

On December 15, 2005, Conrad Black was charged by the Chicago Attorney General's office of $ 84 million "fraudulently" diverted into his own pockets and into the pockets of accomplices, and for his perks intended for the company's employees Having abused wife Barbara Amiel-Black . The lawsuit opened in Chicago on March 14, 2007 - USA vs. Conrad M. Black, John A. Boultbee , Peter Y. Atkinson , Mark S. Kipnis and The Ravelston Corp . Ltd. (Court File No. 05 CR 727) - with numerous prominent witnesses, was considered a trial of the century.

Early life and career

Conrad Black was born into a wealthy family in Montreal, Canada. His father George Montegu Black, II (born June 3, 1911, † June 29, 1976) was President of Canadian Breweries , the largest brewery group in North America, and a shareholder in Argus Corporation. Black's mother, Jean Elizabeth (née Riley) († 1976), came from Winnipeg and was a daughter of Conrad Stephenson Rileys , whose father had founded the Great-West Assurance Company and got rich with it.

Black first went to Upper Canada College , one of the most prestigious English-language schools in Canada, but had to leave when he was fourteen because he had copied exam papers and sold them to his classmates. He then attended Trinity College School , from which he was expelled a year later for "unruly behavior". He eventually graduated from a third private school - Thornton Hall in Toronto .

He studied at Carleton University in Ottawa and graduated there in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in history. Black studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and then at Laval University in Québec , finally earning a Master of Arts degree from McGill University in 1970 . He wrote his thesis on Maurice Duplessis (born April 20, 1890, † September 7, 1959), the long-time prime minister of the Canadian province of Québec. In 1977 he published this work as a book.

While still a student he used his father's money and bought his first newspaper in 1966 - the Eastern Townships Advertiser (more of an advertising paper than a newspaper). The paper was mostly read by wealthy farmers and landowners in the area southeast of Montreal. Black was the boss and sole employee of the small newspaper and wrote most of the articles himself.

In 1969 he sold the Eastern Townships Advertiser and, together with David Radler and Peter G. White, bought the Sherbrooke Record , Québec, a small English-language daily newspaper for $ 20,000 . In 1971 Black, Radler and White founded Sterling Newspapers Limited , a holding company that subsequently united numerous small Canadian regional newspapers under one roof (The Sterling Newspaper Chain).

Argus Corporation and media group

In June 1976, Conrad Black's mother and father died in quick succession. From his father's inheritance he got a 22.4 percent share in the Argus Corporation . The Argus Corporation was founded in 1945 by tycoon Edward Plunket Taylor (born January 29, 1901, † May 14, 1989), John Angus "Bud" McDougald (born March 14, 1908, † March 15, 1978) and Conrad Black's father George Montegue Black II was founded as a company holding company and investment fund.

In 1978 the Argus Corporation united a number of the best-known companies under one roof - such as Canadian Breweries , Massey Ferguson Ltd. (Canada's largest multinational agricultural machinery company), Dominion Stores Ltd. (Canada's largest supermarket chain), Standard Broadcasting (operator of CFRB , the leading radio station in Toronto, and CJAD , its English-speaking counterpart in Montreal), the wood products giant Domtar Inc., then the major gold mining company Hollinger Mines (in Timmins , Ontario ) and Norcen Energy , an energy and pipeline company. In addition, the Argus owned some considerable shares in numerous companies, such as B. at Dominion Malting Co., Orange Crush Ltd. or British Columbia Forest Products Ltd. The holding was so powerful that it was the focus of an investigation by the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration in 1975 .

When John Angus "Bud" McDougald, one of the founders of Argus Corp., died in March 1978, Black acquired the shares inherited from the widow Dougalds and was able to gain control of the company. He was 33 years old at the time and now able to carry out his plans. He sold numerous shares in the Argus Corporation and built Hollinger Mines - which he renamed Hollinger Inc. - into a media holding company.

After taking over the "Jerusalem Post", he dismissed most of the old employees and moved the editorial team to the moderate-right Israeli spectrum.


On July 14, 1978, Conrad Black married Joanna Hishon of Montreal. The couple had three children. The first son Jonathan-David Conrad (Black) was born before the marriage on November 18, 1977. Hishon was married to another man at the time and was only divorced in May 1978. The daughter Alana Whitney Elizabeth (Black) was born on June 28, 1982, the second son James Patrick Leonard (Black) on February 13, 1986.

Black's business flourished, but at the same time the couple became estranged. In 1991 they separated, in 1992 the divorce followed. Black converted to Catholicism while his wife remained an active Zionist .

Conrad Black married in July 1992 the English journalist and writer Barbara Amiel (born December 4, 1940), who was then a columnist for the London Times and before this marriage to Conrad Black had already been married to David Graham, George Jonas and Gary Smith.

The Trial (2007)

On December 15, 2005, Conrad Black was charged by the US Attorney's Office in Chicago, the headquarters of Hollinger Holding, with "fraudulently diverting" $ 84 million from the newspaper group's sale - into his own pocket and in the bags of accomplices from the company. In addition, Black misused the company's “perks” for his wife Barbara . So were u. a. funded a $ 40,000 birthday party for Barbara Amiel-Black as well as part of a $ 600,000 vacation on Bora Bora . Parts of the salary of Black's butler, chauffeur, cook and housemaid were billed to company costs as well as the maintenance costs for Black's apartment on posh Park Avenue in Manhattan ($ 100,000 annually).

The court also negotiated why the company's high-caliber supervisory board - the u. a. Ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger , former Bush security advisor Richard Perle, and former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson - hadn't noticed any of this.

The lawyer Jay Eisenhofer , who represented the plaintiff shareholders under civil law, commented:

“You failed to stop Lord Black from ransacking the company. ... I don't think they knew anything about what was going on, but they should have. ... It's fine to go to board meetings, it's fine to cash the check. It's fine to be treated like royalty. But there is some responsibility attached to it, and if you fail to meet your responsibility, your shareholders will now hold you accountable. "

The trial opened in Chicago on March 14, 2007. The case was led by Patrick Fitzgerald , one of America's star lawyers. Edward Greenspan ( "Fast Eddie" ), as prominent as Fitzgerald, had taken on Black's defense. He is considered the top lawyer in Canada and represents u. a. also the German gun lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber . At the start of the trial, the prosecutor had portrayed Black and his co-defendants as "greedy thieves":

“You're sitting in a room with four men who stole millions of dollars because they didn't think their six- and seven-figure salaries were enough. ... bank robbers mask themselves and use weapons, these four here are wearing ties and suits. "

On July 13, 2007, Black was found guilty of fraud along with three senior employees of Hollinger Holding. On December 10th, he was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and a fine in the mid single-digit million range. He was released from custody in May 2012.

Black was named Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) in 1990 and was later inducted into the Queen's Privy Council for Canada . As a result of his conviction in 2014, both honors were formally stripped of him.

Member of the British House of Lords

At the suggestion of British Prime Minister Tony Blair , Black was raised to life peer by Queen Elizabeth II as Baron Black of Crossharbour , of Crossharbour in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets , on October 30, 2001 , and has been a member of the British House of Lords since then . In parliament he initially sat on the side of the Conservative Party , but was expelled from the party on July 16, 2007 after his conviction in the USA and has since been non-affiliated . Due to a leave of absence granted by the House of Lords, he has last been on leave of absence from participating in parliamentary sessions since September 5, 2017.

Web links

Commons : Conrad Black  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Conrad Black: Why I became a Catholic ( Memento of the original from October 24, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ "They failed to stop Lord Black stripping the company. ... "I don't think they really had any idea of ​​what was going on, but they should have. ... It's nice to go to the board meetings, it's nice to cash the check. It's nice to get the royal treatment. But it comes with some responsibilities, and when you don't exercise those responsibilities, your shareholders are now going to hold you accountable. "
  3. London Gazette . No. 56379, HMSO, London, November 5, 2001, p. 12995 ( PDF , English).
  4. a b Lord Black of Crossharbour at UK Parliament