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

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