Conrad Black did not look a worried man on Tuesday evening, the night before news broke that federal prosecutors in the US were seeking his extradition on charges of skimming $80m (£47m) off Hollinger International – charges that could spell ruination for the fallen press baron and years in prison.
Apparently without a care in the world, Lord Black charged manfully into the crowd at a glitzy black-tie banquet in Toronto, held to mark the 100th anniversary of Maclean’s, the Canadian news magazine, on which his glamorous wife, Barbara Amiel, is a columnist. “That evening, his mood was very up,” recalled his friend and colleague, John Fraser, a former editor in Lord Black’s once sprawling publishing empire.
All the more up, perhaps, because among the gala guests, who included the Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall, lurked Peter Newman, whose 2004 autobiography accused him of “a wide range of criminal acts spanning many years”. As Mr Newman entered the hall, one of Lord Black’s ever-expanding team of legal minions picked him out and served him with a C$2m libel suit.
The brassy, spiteful manoeuvre was typical of a man who, like one of his heroes, Napoleon, revels in waging war on all fronts and seems determined not to let his own morass prevent him from picking new fights. Even as he and Ms Amiel smiled and posed for photographers, Lord Black knew he was about to be indicted in Chicago on fraud-related charges.