No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Conrad's Comeuppance

Conrad Black is smug, snotty Lord who knows, without question, that he is better than you.

His privileged upbringing, his years at Upper Canada College, his almost astonishing business success, all this has done nothing to disabuse him of the notion that he is way, way better and smarter than you. His upper-crusty bombshell of wife certainly didn't change his mind on the subject. Nor, is it likely that his current trial - in which Black is charged with defrauding his own company and its investors of $60 million - likely to de-smug him.

This is, after all, the guy so desperate to lord it over others that he willingly gave up his Canadian citizenship when Jean Chretien threatened to block Black's appointment to Britain's House of Lords. Since being charged with crimes that could merit some serious prison time, Black has quietly requested he be given that citizenship back. Who, after all, wouldn't rather spend all that time in a Canadian prison rather than an American one?

It does raise the question of whether we want him back, though. This is a guy who writes long and ponderous articles, books and what-have-you on Franklin Roosevelt, on the rightness of the Right, on his own innocence. And he's a newspaper publisher who took pains to sue journalist after journalist for libel when they wrote unflattering things about him, even in jest.

He's a wank, to be sure. When his company, Hollinger Inc. first caught wind of the possible fraud and ousted him, Black, actively disregarding a court order, had his secretary help him box up the contents of his office and sneak it out the back door. And while fellow businessmen like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are donating their billions to address poverty around the world, and others like Izzy Sharp and Peter Munk donate millions to hospitals, museums and cultural institutions in Toronto, what did Lord Black of Crossharbour do with all those allegedly ill-gotten gains? Threw the wife a lavish birthday party, took a trip to Bora Bora, bought the wife a whole lot of shoes.

It's a sad end, though, to a remarkable story of success and excess. Black may be a boring writer but he was endlessly interesting to write about (providing you could handle the inevitable lawsuit). In the end, he'll likely be brought down the testimony of David Radler - a friend a colleague of almost 40 years, with whom Black bought his very first newspaper way back when. There's something poetic in that. Not quite as poetic as his wife, the well-travelled Barbara Amiel calling one of the reporters covering her husband's trial a slut. Babs, on her fourth husband - each one richer than the last - was a journalist too. Though, not, presumably, a slut.


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