What happens now to Conrad Black? That appears to the million dollar – or more – question. Black was found guilty of four charges in a Chicago courtroom Friday, and all of them were serious enough to warrant the pending loss of both his freedom and a big chunk of his money. He’ll learn his fate on November 30th.
What would it be like for a man of his wealth and stature to wind up going from luxury to the starkness of a prison cell? Friends say that prospect is “devastating”, while others predict it’s Black’s legacy in business history that seems to upset the former British Lord even more. “It’s not the crime, it’s the demolishing of Conrad’s life’s work,” agrees his friend and columnist Mark Steyn. “It’s the knowledge that the first draft of history is going to be written by all your enemies, by all these kinds of jackals from Fleet Street who skipped the last four months but flew in here for the walk to the scaffold.”
Those who have followed Black’s career believe he will be defiant to the end, stubbornly assuring he did nothing wrong. “His vision of himself is that he is a romantic rebel” much like former U.S. presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, Napoleon, Winston Churchill and the other historical figures he admires, suggests biographer George Tombs. “If things go badly it’s other people’s fault.”
That includes his closest associate, David Radler, who Black believed would never betray him. “No matter what happens, people aren’t allowed to turn on him,” Tombs adds. “He tends to see himself as a master strategist and he’s moving the pieces on the chess board.”
Black has been forced to surrender his passport and will remain in Chicago until his sentencing. He may well rue the day he gave up his Canadian citizenship. “He can reapply,” suggests lawyer Lorne Honickman, the host of “Legal Briefs” on CP24. “And my guess is he will reapply immediately … If he was a Canadian citizen, as is David Radler, we have an agreement with the United States, a prisoner exchange program where you can make the application to serve your sentence In Canada. That happens on a daily basis. Now, not necessarily a slam-dunk but you can’t do it if you are not a Canadian citizen.”
Black renounced his citizenship in order to take a seat in the British House of Lords, a move that raised eyebrows in his home and native land.
- His legal woes are far from over, however, as he will have to face off against regulatory commissions, both American and Canadian, as well as a number of lawsuits. Waiting in the wings are Black’s former companies, Hollinger Inc., Hollinger International and many bitter investors forming class-action suits.