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LIFESTYLE The Gentleman’s Journal

E D D I E R E D M AY N E The ideal Burberry poster boy, his looks are unique, classic and British. He’s now all over the screen, both in Les Mis and as Stephen Hawking in the upcoming biopic. The only question is: what’s next?

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LIFESTYLE The Gentleman’s Journal

CITIZEN

BLACK

THE STRANGE RISE AND STRANGER FALL OF A MEDIA MOGUL A media mogul, businessman, historian and knight of the realm, Conrad Black could never be accused of lacking ambition. His turbulent rise to power and celebrity makes for a fascinating storyas does his eventual fall. One year after his release from a Florida prison, we take a look back over WKLVPRVWFRORXUIXODQGGLYLVLYHRI ÀJXUHV

‘You are a criminal! You’re a convicted criminal!’ The scene is a hotel room somewhere in Central London in October 2012. Jeremy Paxman is going in with all guns blazing against Conrad Black, former proprietor of The Telegraph Group, but it’s useless; every new assault augments the drama, redoubles its pugnacity- you can almost feel the spittle hitting your face as Newsnight’s attack dog foams and fumes away RQWKHVFUHHQ%ODFNKROGVĂ€UPUDLVLQJKLVYRLFHEXW HORTXHQWO\UHEXIĂ€QJ3D[PDQ¡VSDWHQWHGZHDYHRI  supercilious disdain and brusqueness. The normally XQĂ DSSDEOHSUHVHQWHULVEHFRPLQJERJJHGGRZQDQG the enduring impression is of a man lobbing tennis balls at the walls of a fortress. For one whose name LVVRWLJKWO\ZHOGHGWRWKHSUHĂ€[´GLVJUDFHGPHGLD baronâ€?, Black still defends his corner impressively. At the time of the interview, Black- a decade previously chief executive of the World’s third-largest QHZVSDSHUJURXSZDVLQ%ULWDLQIRUWKHĂ€UVWWLPHLQ seven years. The reason for his return was ostensibly to promote his leviathan second autobiography, A Matter of Principle, but many commentators, notably investigative journalist Tom Bower, perceived the trip as a campaign of rehabilitation, an expedition aimed at re-ingratiating himself into the public life of the country in which he is both a citizen andfor the moment, at least- a life peer. Conrad Black QHHGHGDFKDUPRIIHQVLYHRQO\Ă€YHPRQWKVHDUOLHU he was seeing out the end of a prison sentence in Florida, where he had served three years for fraud and obstruction of justice. Black was born in MontrĂŠal in 1944, to Betty and George Montegu Black Jr. George Black had recently been propositioned to work for E.P. Taylor, a local industrialist who would go on to found the Argus Group, once Canada’s largest conglomerate. )RUWKHQH[WĂ€IWHHQ\HDUV%ODFNVHQLRU¡VULVHVHHPHG unstoppable, culminating in a role as president of the largest brewer in the country. Conrad, meanwhile, cannot claim such grand achievements during this period; as a schoolboy, he was withdrawn and rebellious, obsessed with statistics, NapolĂŠon Bonaparte, political oratory and military history. Richard Siklos speculated in his 1995 biography Shades of Black that this was down to ‘a sense of imprisonment’, and retrospective irony aside, his greatest juvenile achievement was the spectacular theft of a cache of end of year exam papers and their subsequent sale to his classmates. It was, as he joked \HDUVODWHUKLVœÀUVWWUXHDFWRI &DSLWDOLVP¡ By all accounts, Black middled through his history degree at Carlton University in Ottawa too, preferring to establish contact with the sort of milieu he really wanted to be mixing with- that is, people who looked like stepping stones to power DQGLQĂ XHQFH2QHRI WKHĂ€JXUHV%ODFNPHWLQKLV time in Ottawa was Peter White, an assistant to a

LEFT: Conrad Black relaxing at home

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minister who shared his ambitions. In 1966, :KLWHDVVLVWHG%ODFNLQDFTXLULQJKLVĂ€UVW newspaper, a tiny community title called the Eastern Townships Advertiser, based outside MontrĂŠal.  7KUHH\HDUVDQGDGHFHQWSURĂ€WODWHU White and Black set their sights on another rag, this time the much-larger Sherbrooke Record. As it stood, the Record had debts of close to C$200,000 and was careering towards insolvency. They were joined in their acquisitive partnership by David Radler, a rough-and-ready MontrĂŠaler brought in to manage the swingeing cuts they unleashed once the paper was under their control. And what cuts they were: ‘Its staff of 48’, Siklos recorded, ‘was soon pared in half ’. The ruthless cost-cutting and a relentless drive for advertising revenue turned the paper’s fortunes around quickly in spite of the fact that, according to Siklos, the quality of its reporting had declined, leading to a drop in readership. Soon afterwards, Black scored his Ă€UVWKLWRI PDVVH[SRVXUH+DYLQJPHWDQG

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befriended JJ Pickle, a US Congressman, he wangled a trip to South Vietnam to interview the country’s president, Nguyen Van Thieu. The Vietnam War was then at its height, and after the feature appeared in the Record (which was, lest we forget, a local paper with a circulation of less than 8000) it was, to Black’s delight, syndicated across the World. Black, White and Radler spent the 1970s rapaciously acquiring new titles across the span of Canada. Absurd though it may sound today, owning newspapersparticularly the local monopoly publications Black and his partners were buying- really did make good business sense. As Black explained to the BBC last year: ‘At that time, LWKDGDELJSURĂ€WDQGEH\RQGWKDWLWZDV 7KH1HZVDQGWKHUHIRUHLWZDVE\GHĂ€QLWLRQ interesting. It brought you into contact with news makers- you had a ringside seat on everything’. In 1976, Betty Black died of cancer and George followed her to the morgue ten days later in a bizarre accident to which Conrad himself bore witness. The two had spent the

evening at the family mansion in Toronto, when George, reportedly distraught at the death of his wife, slipped whilst climbing the staircase and crashed through the banister. While it has been implied that the death was a suicide, Conrad has always maintained that LWZDVDKRUULĂ€FDFFLGHQWKLVIDWKHUKHWROG Richard Siklos, was no depressive. George’s 22.4% interest in Ravelston Corp, the company through which the Argus Group was controlled by its directors, passed to Conrad and his brother Montegu. Argus was a gargantuan of a conglomerate whose reach extended from supermarket chains to mining companies and industrial manufacturing. By the 1970s, the directors of Ravelston had become corrupt and complacent, content with scraping off the SURĂ€WVIURP$UJXVDEXVLQHVVJLDQWWKDW Black himself referred to as ‘a tired group of entries- indifferently managed companies in mature industries’. Change was afoot: it was at this time that Black began dating a divorcĂŠe named Shirley Walters, and the following November she gave birth to their

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