They are calling it “Conradenfreude” in Canada. One of the world’s most prominent tycoons, a big, bruising businessman, explodes out of mediocrity in Ontario, builds an international media empire, courts presidents and statesmen, then suddenly finds himself overtaken by financial scandal and orphaned by his newly acquired family of the super-rich and powerful. Few are offering him a shoulder to cry on. In fact, most seem to be relishing his comeuppance.
Intelligent, belligerent and pompous, Conrad Black built a media business spanning three continents. He saved the Telegraph group from collapse, and was given a peerage for his achievements. He acquired a glamorous second wife in the writer Barbara Amiel, and together they bulldozed their way onto the social and political stages of London and Washington. He acquired political figures such as Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher as confidants, advisers and employees. But with a stew of alleged financial irregularities coming to the boil, and the bouquet of a Maxwellian disregard for the rules, Black and his wife are fighting for their reputations.
Sued by his former company Hollinger in Delaware in February, Black lost control of his newspaper company and his reputation was further tarnished in testimony. The judge deemed him “evasive and unreliable”. Writs worth hundreds of millions of dollars are flying; two more writs were served on him as he dined with his lawyers and another as he headed for the court’s toilets.
Worse is to come.