The Kettle Called Conrad Black

Slate has a delightful piece on the board of Black’s company, Hollinger International. It seems the directors, such as Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, had little serious business experience and basically rubber-stamped Black’s plans.

Daniel Gross writes, “Most of these more or less honorable folks were basically idle directors. They showed up at meetings, ate lunch, rubber-stamped corporate plans, and cashed their checks.”

And the business types weren’t necessarily top notch either: “But Black seemed to have a genius for recruiting CEOs with legal issues, as Steven Pearlstein noted in Wednesday’s Washington Post. A. Alfred Taubman, the former CEO of Sotheby’s, remained on Hollinger’s board even after he had been convicted of violating antitrust laws. Dwayne Andreas, the paterfamilias of Archer Daniels Midland, the agri-business giant that in 1996 pleaded guilty to price-fixing, was also a longtime board director.”

“Given this cast of characters, it should come as no surprise that over the years the stock of Hollinger International has failed to keep pace with the broad market indexes and many of its peer media companies. After all, putting a bunch of right-wingers with occasionally dubious foreign policy credentials in the position of directing a profit-making business seems almost as illogical as putting a bunch of right-wingers with occasionally dubious business credentials in charge of foreign policy.”

Sometimes, the bad get their comeuppance

Conrad Black – quite possibly the worst newspaper owner in the history of Canada – has agreed to resign from his chairmanship at Hollinger International, essentially ending his career as a political figure and opinion-maker. Hollinger, the owner of the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post, used to own a number of Canadian newspapers, including the fishwrap known as the National Post.

As an unending source of American right-wing propaganda abroad, Black had a reputation as a blowhard who was largely out of step with the actual residents of the places he published newspaper. Mark Shainblum, author of the Canadian political comic Angloman, one portrayed him as one of the triumvirate ruling Torontorg, a parody of the Star Trek aliens the “Borg”, along with his wife Barbara “feminism is totalitarianism” Amiel. “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

Conrad Black, a British-Canadian dual citizen prevented temporarily from receiving royal honours by his nemisis Jean Chrétien, has been forced to resign because of his involvement in US$32 of “informal” executive pay outside of the knowledge of Hollingers’ audit committee.

He is survived by his creation, the Hollinger Group. Hollinger, once owner of much of Canada’s print media, suffered a debilitating crisis in 2001 which saw the loss of Black’s personal project – Canada’s National Post and the bulk of the newspaper group’s assets. Hollinger stock is up 18% on news of his departure.