Conrad Black

Conrad Moffat Black, Canadian-born British peer, Baron Black of Crossharbour, media baron, industrialist, journalist, historian and author (born 25 August 1944 in Montréal).

Conrad Black, businessman
Black's publishing empire included the London Daily Telegraph and 58 Canadian dailies (courtesy Maclean's).

Conrad Moffat Black

Conrad Moffat Black, Canadian-born British peer, Baron Black of Crossharbour, media baron, industrialist, journalist, historian and author (born 25 August 1944 in Montréal) was the son of George Montegu Black, Jr, President of Canadian Breweries Ltd who served as assistant deputy minister of National Defence during the Second World War. Black was educated at Upper Canada College and from there was sent to Trinity College, Thornton School and Osgoode Hall. He received an arts degree from Carleton University in 1965, a law degree from Université Laval in 1970 and a Master's degree in history from McGill in 1973. With his partners Peter White and David Radler he began acquiring a number of rural newspapers starting in 1969 with The Eastern Townships Advertiser, L'Avenir de Brome Missisquoi and later the Sherbrooke Record. While still at McGill he wrote a sympathetic biography of Quebec premier Maurice DUPLESSIS. Then, after the death of his father, he used his inheritance in a holding company, Ravelston Corporation, to achieve control of ARGUS CORPORATION, and its subsidiary, Hollinger International.

Black gradually divested himself of traditional Argus investments and in 1985 began buying quality newspapers, including the London Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, The Chicago Sun Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. In 1992, he engineered a takeover of the Southam chain of Canadian newspapers (see SOUTHAM INC).

Conrad Black's autobiography, A Life in Progress was published the following year.

Black launched the National Post in 1997 as a Toronto flagship for his chain, designed to compete with The Globe & Mail. In 1999, the British government offered to make Black a baron, but Canadian Prime Minister Jean CHRÉTIEN intervened and blocked Black's appointment citing the Nickle Resolution of 1919, which directed that the practice of bestowing titles of honour by foreign governments on Canadians be discontinued. Black gave up his Canadian citizenship to accept the title and in 2001 was sworn into the House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour. Crossharbour is the name of a London neighbourhood located near the building that houses The London Daily Telegraph.

Black sold his Canadian newspaper chain to CanWest Media for $3.2 billion and as part of the deal was paid $74 million not to compete with CanWest Global. Shortly afterwards, directors at Hollinger International claimed that Black and Radler were paying themselves unauthorized salaries. There were further claims that Black diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in company monies to himself through a series of self dealing transactions.

Black was fired as Hollinger Chairman in 2004 and shortly after, lost control of his press empire. Concurrent with his failing business dealings, he managed to publish an ambitious biography of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 2005 his long-time business partner David Radler agreed to co-operate with US investigators in a plea bargain. Black was charged with fraud and obstruction of justice, and largely because of Radler's testimony against him, was convicted in 2007 and sentenced by a Chicago district court judge to 78 months in prison for defrauding shareholders and obstructing justice.

Black appealed his conviction to the US Supreme Court on the grounds that the trial judge gave improper instructions to the jury with respect to the correct interpretation of certain aspects of the fraud charges. A US Supreme Court decision in June 2010 subsequently set aside the fraud conviction and in July Black was granted bail. In October a three-member Appellate panel overturned two of Black's three criminal fraud convictions while upholding the obstruction of justice guilty verdict. Black was remanded to the US District Court in Chicago for re-sentencing on the obstruction conviction as well as on the remaining fraud conviction. At the re-sentencing hearing in June 2011 the 2007 sentence of 78 months was replaced by a 42 month sentence, which left Black with a possible 13 additional months to serve. Black began his incarceration, to be followed by two years of supervised release, in September 2011 and was eventually released from the Federal Correctional Institution Miami in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida in April 2012. Having given up his Canadian citizenship to accept a peerage in the British House of Lords in 2001, Black was not automatically eligible for repatriation to Canada at the completion of his sentence but was granted a temporary resident permit that allowed him to return to his home in Toronto.

Black's biography of US president Richard Nixon, The Invincible Quest, was published to critical acclaim in the same year as his conviction (2007). In 2011, McClelland & Stewart published A Matter of Principle, in which Black describes his trial, conviction, incarceration and appeal.

Conrad Black was awarded the Order of Canada in 1990 for "his diverse achievements in the realms of commerce, literature and the arts." In January 2014, however, he was removed from both the Order of Canada and the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

He was married twice, first in 1978 to Shirley Gail Walters with whom he had three children, and in 1992 to journalist Babrara AMIEL.

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