LAWFUEL – The Law News Wire – Conrad Black, as chairman of Hollinger I…

LAWFUEL – The Law News Wire – Conrad Black, as chairman of Hollinger International Inc., lived a lifestyle so lavish that he needed two Park Avenue apartments — one for his servants, Bloomberg reports.

His wife, Barbara Amiel Black, had five separate closets for her evening gowns, $500 shoes and $7,000 handbags in their London townhouse. His chauffeur had a corporate American Express card he used to shop for the couple.

In a criminal trial so far dominated by lawyers parsing the language of corporate filings, what may stick with jurors most are details prosecutors are presenting of the Blacks’ personal spending and alleged abuse of company perks. The couple’s lifestyle may emerge as a key theme in the remaining weeks of Black’s fraud and racketeering trial in Chicago.

“Black’s expense practices evidence his attitude that there was no need to distinguish between what belonged to the company and what belonged to the Blacks,” said a 2004 report by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Richard Breeden, who was asked by Hollinger’s board to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Black and other executives. “In Hollinger’s world, everything belonged to the Blacks.”

Black, 62, and three co-defendants are charged with stealing $60 million from Hollinger. Prosecutors say the former chief executive officer treated the company as his personal “piggy bank” from 1997 to 2003.

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