Friday, April 27, 2007

Conrad Black: The rise and fall of a media mogul

Conrad Black began purchasing small Canadian newspapers in the 1960s, and by the 1990s his conglomerate Hollinger International controlled 60 per cent of Canadian newspaper titles, as well as hundreds of dailies in the U.S., England, Australia and Israel.
At one stage Black was the third-largest newspaper publisher in the world, with titles including the Spectator, Chicago Sun Times, Montreal Gazette, Daily Telegraph, and Jerusalem Post.
In late 2003, Black announced he would step down as CEO of Hollinger International.
The move followed findings of a special committee that Black and other senior Hollinger executives received $32.15 million in unauthorized payments.Since then Black's business empire has suffered a number of other problems, including a lawsuit suit accusing Black and chief operating officer David Radler of improperly diverting tens of millions of dollars from Hollinger International.
Here's a look at the rise and fall of Conrad Black, also know as Lord Black of Crossharbour.
1944 - Conrad Moffat Black was born in Montreal on August 25, to wealthy brewery businessman George Montegu Black and his wife Betty (nee Riley). His maternal grandfather Conrad Riley had made his own fortune in insurance.
1960s to 1970s - Black began buying small Canadian newspapers during his 20s and in 1971 co-founded the Sterling Newspapers Group.1978 - Became chair of the Argus Corporation, a position he used as a stepping stone to launch the Hollinger group.1978 - Married Joanna Hishton, with whom he had two sons and one daughter (marriage ends 1992).
1990s - By the early part of the decade Hollinger controlled 60 per cent of Canadian newspaper titles, as well as hundreds of dailies in the U.S., England, Australia and Israel. Newspapers included the Spectator, Chicago Sun Times, Montreal Gazette, Daily Telegraph, and Jerusalem Post.
Black soon earned a reputation for taking over newspapers and raising profits by cutting costs and slashing jobs.
1992 - Married Barbara Amiel, a a well-known Canadian columnist who lived in London and at one time wrote for Black's competitor, Rupert Murdoch. The couple are on many top-level guest lists in Britain and her right wing views are similar to many of his. Amiel wrote for Macleans, CBC, the Toronto Sun and Britain's Times and Daily Telegraph. She lost her position as columnist for the Daily Telegraph in 2004 when she put the phone down on the newspaper's editor.
1993 - Black published his autobiography: A Life in Progress.
January 1998 - Black authored a biography of a Quebec politician: Render Unto Caesar: The Life and Legacy of Maurice Duplessis.
October 1998 - Black launched the National Post in Toronto to combat what he saw as an 'over-liberalizing' of editorial policy in Canadian newspapers. Black built the new paper around the existing Financial Post, an established business-oriented newspaper. From the beginning the Post was staunchly conservative.
1999 - By now Black was the third-largest newspaper publisher in the world. At its peak in 1999, Hollinger earned revenues of more than $2 billion.
The British government moved to make him Lord Black, but Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who was attacked relentlessly by Black's newspapers during his leadership, opposed the move. Chretien pointed to the 1919 Nickle Resolution which ruled that foreign governments could not grant honours to Canadians that carry a title or privilege. Black challenged the ruling in court, but was unsuccessful.
August 2000 - Hollinger sells most of his Canadian media holdings, including 50 per cent of the National Post, to Izzy Asper's CanWest Global.
2001 - Hollinger sells some smaller papers that CanWest didn't buy to the Osprey Media Group.October 31, 2001 - Determined to get his title despite opposition from Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Black renounced his Canadian citizenship and became Lord Black of Crossharbour.
Crossharbour is the name of subway stop near the Daily Telegraph building. Black owned the newspaper.
November 17, 2003 - Black announced he would step down as CEO of Hollinger International following an internal inquiry which found that Black and other Hollinger executives received more than $32 million US in unauthorized payments. Refusing to admit any wrongdoing, Black described his departure as "retirement."
The committee of Hollinger's board found that payments "styled as 'non-competition payments' were made that were not authorized or approved by either the audit committee or the full board of directors of Hollinger."
Of that, Black and chief operating officer David Radler each reportedly received $7.2 million, while $16.6 million went to parent company Hollinger Inc. Two other Hollinger executives reportedly received just over $600,000 each. Black again denied any wrongdoing and insisted the unauthorized payments were above-board.
November 2003 - Black publishes his third book and second political biography, the 1,200-plus page Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. Despite the controversy over Hollinger affairs, Black delivers on book store appearances to promote the book.
January 2004 - Hollinger International removed Black as its chairman, just hours after announcing a $200-million US lawsuit against him and Radler.
The suit accused them of using false accounting to divert corporate assets, and demanded that Black and Radler refund all salaries and dividends they collected during the disputed time period.
Black responded by announcing he would sell his stake in Hollinger Inc. to Press Holdings International, a British conglomerate run by twins David and Frederick Barclay.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order against Hollinger International to force its executive to protect its corporate assets even if a sale went through.
The SEC couldn't block the sale directly because it involved Hollinger Inc., a Canadian company.
The SEC said reports filed by Hollinger International contained errors regarding transfer of assets to other companies in the Hollinger family.
August 31, 2004 - the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission made public a report by a special committee of Hollinger International which alleged "racketeering" and "corporate kleptocracy."
The report said Black and other executives took hundreds of millions of dollars they weren't entitled to.
It accused controlling shareholders and their affiliates of paying themselves more than $400 million since 1997.
Black's holding company, Ravelston Corp., dismissed the report, saying there were "factual and tainting misrepresentations and inaccuracies" and that the issues would be resolved in court.
September 2004 - a group of Canadian investors launched a class-action lawsuit against Black and his associates seeking at least $4 billion in damages.
The suit tried to recover market losses that may have been caused by controversies involving Black's management and allegations he and his associates took hundreds of millions of dollars they weren't entitled to.
October 8, 2004 - the $1.25-billion US racketeering lawsuit against Black brought by Hollinger International was thrown out by a U.S. federal court judge, but that wasn't the end of Black's legal troubles.
November 15, 2004 - less than two weeks after Black resigned as chairman and chief executive of Hollinger Inc., the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission laid a civil fraud lawsuit against Black, Hollinger's former deputy chairman and chief operating officer David Radler, and Hollinger Inc. The suit accused Black and Radler of improperly diverting tens of millions of dollars from Hollinger International.
March 2005 - Black learned that U.S. authorities had opened a criminal investigation into his activities.
Ontario stock market regulators also filed notice that they would launch proceedings against Black, three former associates and Hollinger Inc. for alleged violations of securities laws.
May 2005 - Black, his chauffeur and a personal assistant were caught on a security video removing 12 boxes of files from the Toronto headquarters of Hollinger Inc.
The removal occurred despite an Ontario court order that barred Black from taking documents from Hollinger's offices.
Black's lawyer said the boxes contained "personal" items not covered by the court order.
July 2005 - federal prosecutors in Chicago announced that Radler, 63, had decided to co-operate with their criminal investigation into allegations that he, Black and their associates diverted more than $32 million dollars from Hollinger.
Radler was charged with seven counts of fraud, charges that carry a maximum jail sentence of 35 years.
September 20, 2005 - Radler pleaded guilty in a Chicago court to one count of mail fraud. He agreed to a 29-month jail term and a fine of $250,000 US.
November 17, 2005 - The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago charges former Hollinger International head Conrad Black and others in an alleged scheme to divert more than $80 million US from the company.
December 1, 2005 - Conrad Black pleads not guilty to eight fraud charges in connection with the alleged diversion of $80 million from Hollinger International Inc. He is released on $20 million US bail and ordered to live in Canada, Chicago, or Florida.
Dec. 15, 2005 - Four new charges are leveled against Conrad Black, including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Black faces a maximum of 95 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
June 19, 2006 - U.S. prosecutors accuse Conrad Black of misleading authorities about the value of assets he used to secure bail and demand he put up more of his holdings or have is bail revoked.
June 26, 2006 - A U.S. judge decides not to revoke Conrad Black's bail, but asks Black's lawyers for a revised financial statement before deciding whether to increase the bond.
August 17, 2006 - U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald releases a revised indictment of Black that adds two tax-related criminal charges to the allegations against him.
September 25, 2006 - Conrad Black reveals in a television interview that he is trying to regain his Canadian citizenship.
February 7, 2007 - Ravelston Corp., another company formerly held by Conrad Black, seeks a plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors where the company would plead guilty and pay a $7 million US fine as part of the case against Black and three former associates. Ravelston joins Hollinger International and Hollinger Inc. as allies of the prosecution.
February 20, 2007 - Conrad Black launches a libel suit in Canada against British author Tom Bower over a biography titled "Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge," about him and wife, Barbara Amiel Black.
March 5, 2007 - Ravelston Corp., pleads guilty to one count of mail fraud in Chicago and agrees to pay $7 million US.
March 14, 2007 - The trial of Conrad Black begins with jury selection

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An unknown pollution source

Many people accuse world trade for all sorts of illness, from the loss of well-paying factory jobs in the U.S. to the rise of sweatshops in China and other developing nations. Now add global warming to the list.
The more than 90,000 commercial vessels crossing the oceans produce more carbon dioxide than all but 10 of the 39 industrialized nations originally included in the Kyoto Protocol, says a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. That includes the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain. This massive global boat float also emits more sulfur dioxide than all the cars, trucks, and buses on the planet, and a sixth of all the nitrogen oxide pumped into the atmosphere, says the study.
The “much too big” emissions at sea reflect the limitations of world politics. While national governments have forced giant reductions in discharges from vehicles and smokestacks, the U.N.'s International Maritime Organization (IMO) has maintained looser limits on ships, in part because 139 countries are involved in crafting controls. Some fuel burned in ships, for instance, contains 27,000 parts per million of sulfur on average. In the U.S., diesel fuel cannot have more than 15 parts per million. The IMO plans to take up new pollution standards at a midsummer meeting.
It seems that bigger intervention of governments will be necessary to stop the habit of “polluting without caring” because the whole world has to change these habits. It is not only little non-costly intervention that will change the situation for the future generations.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Payday is still a man's world

CNN news
April 23rd 2007

A recent study made by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, based in Washington D.C, reported that a dramatic pay gap emerges between women and men in America the year after they graduate from college and widens over the ensuing decade. In fact, one year after graduation, for the same field, women earn 80% of what men earn, and 69% after 10 years of employment. The sudy took for account factors like the number of hours worked, occupations and parenthood. Still, the gap persists in every situation.

One of the question that led the study was : ''If a woman makes the same choices as a man, will she recevive the same pay at the end?''. Unfortunately, the answer is no. One of the main reason to explain this gap is the evidence of discrimination at work, one of the most important issue women have been fighting against for the past century. The study had revealed another interesting fact. It is said in it that about one quarter of the pay is attributable to the gender. When a man or a woman gets out of college and gets hired for the first time, they should arguably be the least likely to show a gender pay gap, since neither tend to be parents yet and they enter the work force without significant experience.

Wage equity is one of the problems feminists have desperately been denouncing for many decades. It is somehow frustrating to see, with the conclusions of this study in addition to reality facts, that modern societies of ours, where human rights and freedom are being favored, are still under the dictature of yesterday's stereotypes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The Time business podcast of April 9th 2007 talks about mini-computer. After the big lunch of Apple iphone that made everyone talk about all winter, two teams of Microsoft technologists work hard to get back in to the spotlight. So, in April, they lunch Flipstart. Paul Allen was at 54, the one who dreamed it up and founded the Flipstart. Paul Allen, co-founder, says that it is “the first fully powered ultra mini PC, satisfying to use. Meanwhile, it is say that it is not the only machine to proclaim those functions but they are the first to have a package that is compose of new generation processors, batteries, screens and memories chips. It is a devise that is more portable than a laptop and more powerful than a cell phone. It is an other big competition of market between Apple and Microsoft. That why Jeremy Caplet called his story Billionaire Bet.

Personally, I prefer Apple. I have experience both and I really rely even more on Apple. It answers better my need in the creativity, organizing and music world. The iphone impress me even more than the Flipstart. I really do not see what it has better even if the package is pretty good. The cost of this machine is 2000,00 $US. I prefer to get the iphone at 600,00$US before or an other laptop from Apple that has already most of what this machine have. It is the rich people that can offer them this kind of gadget. It is a good gadget but it is not what a student with so little can offer or a medium class person. This is the world of Business. There is always something new and better.

Joshua Schachter

The piece of writing, Tag sale, pages 34 and 37 talks about Joshua Schachter that became a multimillionaire, a Yahoo employee and soon-to-be a Californian. Yahoo transformed his life. He was a 31-years-old New Yorker, the CEO of a rapidly growing but revenueless social software outfit and a hard-core geek. He has the reputation of a pioneer of “tagging”. Even if his fans are disappointed with his choice. Fred Wilson, the New York venture capitalist who ultimately baked the company of Sachachter believed that had a good probability to make it a stand-alone business. He was looking forward to building “a monetization system for the service that was as natural and effective as the Overture/Google model in search”. For’s next phase of development, they were in need of money. They found investors eager to join but Microsoft came calling with an acquisition that had to be taken seriously. Schachter is the founder of A system for letting users label webpages with searchable keywords of their choice. In reality, Schachter is an electrical engineering graduate working at Morgan Stanley at the time that was trying to get a handle on his vast collection of bookmarks. His primary motivations were pecuniary when he builded in 2003. By November 2004, a year after release, the site had already 40 000 users. Schachter had than be notice by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and but at the time none of the offers he had from those major players were tempting enough to him. After, he left Morgan Stanley and put in place a financing round: 1$ million most of it was from Wilson firm. At the end of the year, the number of users on the site was near 300 000 and was the hottest startup in the industry. The risks struck Schachter when they were looking forward to the next phase. “It was becoming clear that getting distribution for in the future was going to be a challenge… and it was likely that Goolgle, Yahoo, and Microsoft would have all been down my throat within a year”. Schachter choosed Yahoo because “they understood my vision, and they didn’t argue with it… they have all this technology we can use to accelerate our plans…”. Schachter realy believe that it was the best thing to do for and for him. He thinks that Yahoo is a “more conducive place for a geek like him to flourish”.

I think that it was a good idea for him to sell. He is not a business man. He is more a creator. He has to do what is best for him and that is what he is saying in this magazine. He had to take a choice and he took the best one. Yahoo offers him money, a lot of money but also respect for him and his work. I think that Yahoo was the best choice. Even if his friend and his fans are sad about this. The choice has his to take.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Canada dollar soars on job gains; bonds pull back

The Canadian dollar jumped against the greenback on Thursday, reaching a 3-1/2 month high, after a surprisingly powerful March employment report suggested to some that the Bank of Canada will eventually hike interest rates.
The currency closed at C$1.1506 to the U.S. dollar, or 86.91 U.S. cents, up from C$1.1592, or 86.26 U.S. cents, at Wednesday's close.
The Canadian economy added a whopping 54,900 jobs in March, blowing past forecasts for a 15,000-job gain, while the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at a 31-year low of 6.1 percent.
The stronger than expected report was the latest in a string of robust monthly jobs reports, and pushed the currency as high as C$1.1487, or 87.05 U.S. cents, a level it has not touched since late December. The Canadian unit eased slightly in the afternoon, as market participants drifted away for the Friday Easter holiday.
"The employment rate, arguably the best measure of labor-market strength, is at a record high," at 63.5 percent, said Warren Lovely, senior economist with CIBC World Markets in Toronto.
"Tightness in the labor market is going to prevent the Bank of Canada from entertaining easier (monetary) policy and the Canadian dollar is reacting as you might expect, it's getting a bit of a bid," Lovely said.
The Ivey Purchasing Managers Index, also released on Friday, painted an upbeat picture as well. It rose to 67.3 in March, the highest result since last June. An index reading above 50 indicates an increase in purchasing activity.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

BMW's hydrogen car: a good solution to global warming

Since a little more than six months, a reporter for the BBC Jorn Madslien tried a brand new car from the BMW Company. It is called the BMW Hydrogen 7 and it is powered by liquid hydrogen. Everybody know that environment is an important issue, probably the most important as the years go by and as the planet and the atmosphere is more than tired of being so much pollute. With this new car that makes no emission of harmful gas, BMW take a stand for environment and take a step in a new technological area. That six-litre engine delivers 300bhp and is there to save the world but also to give a very good look for the company.

Of course, there is some disadvantage and la lot of advantage too but the biggest challenge is the economical problem. It is hard to find investors and companies that wil invest into something that maybe will not work. To throw in the market a car like that, you have to give the same services than on any other car. In the present time, there are only 5 fuelling stations in the world supporting BMW's technology. In Germany alone, it would cost 23 billions euros to introduce 2,000 hydrogen filling stations. That is a lot of money for any investor who is not even sure that is investment will come back in part to him.

Another alternative would be to use cars that work with hydrogen and fuel when the hydrogen tank is empty. There are a lot of solutions to decrease significantly pollution made by car but any of them are extremely expensive. The question that BMW and anyone living on this earth has to ask themselves is how much are we ready to spend for the wealth of the next generations?