Now that he is out of jail and back home in Toronto, Conrad Black plans to keep a low public profile and concentrate on selling an updated version of his latest book. He might also try to lose some weight.
“Apart from trying to sell books, I don’t want any more interviews, apart from one with [CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge]that I promised him in August, and a couple when I get back to England,” Lord Black wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
Lord Black returned to Canada on May 4 after being released from a Florida prison, where he had been serving a 42-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice. His arrival was met with some controversy because it wasn’t clear if he could come back to Canada since he had given up his Canadian citizenship years ago to sit in the House of Lords in Britain. However the Department of Citizenship and Immigration gave Lord Black a one-year temporary-resident permit, clearing the way for him to fly to Toronto immediately upon his release from a Miami jail.
His return ended a near decade-long battle over the misappropriation of money at Chicago-based Hollinger International Inc., a key part of the Hollinger newspaper empire Lord Black co-founded in the late 1960s. At its peak, Hollinger owned hundreds of papers across Canada, the United States, Britain and Israel.
Allegations of wrongdoing surfaced in 2003 and two years later Lord Black and four other Hollinger executives faced a number of criminal charges. Lord Black was ultimately convicted of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He waged a number of appeals, including one to the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in one fraud count and the obstruction charge remaining.
Lord Black wrote about his legal battle in a book released last fall called A Matter of Principle. An updated version of the book is coming out next month, Lord Black said in the e-mail.
He also made it clear in the e-mail that he remains convinced all of the charges against him should have been reversed.
“I won’t reargue the case, but no jurisdiction in the world, with only the partial exception of the U.S., takes Posner’s spurious retrieval of the two counts seriously,” he said referring to U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner who wrote the final ruling on Lord Black’s appeals that left the fraud and obstruction charges standing.
As for whether he plans to get back into business, Lord Black declined to answer, saying only: “My commercial interests are entirely private.”
He also turned down a long-standing invitation for a beer upon his release. “I only drink the odd glass of wine and am trying to lose weight, so the forum you proposed, though appreciated, is a bit dated after these years that have passed,” he wrote.
In an interview last summer, while out on bail because of various appeals, Lord Black indicated that he wasn’t interested in buying back the National Post, which he launched in 1998, or re-entering the newspaper business.
“I have no active ambition to get into that business,” he said last August. “I have enough assets around that I will revive my career as an investor. I have had a modest success as a writer of books and columns. I’ll just go on with that and see where it all leads.”
In a recent interview, Lord Black’s long-time business partner, Peter White, said he doubted Lord Black will get back into the business world. “I think he is going to continue to be a public intellectual. He’s at the top of his game. ...He’s got so much on his mind, and his brain,” said Mr. White.
Lord Black still has a number of legal issues to resolve. He’s suing British author Tom Bower for $2.5-million over his book called Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge and he has an ongoing court case with U.S. tax authorities over allegations he failed to pay millions of dollars in taxes.
Lord Black is also fighting over the remains of Hollinger Inc., a Toronto-based holding company through which he controlled the newspaper chain. Hollinger filed for bankruptcy protection years ago, facing a barrage of lawsuits and roughly $1-billion in liabilities. In recent filings in a Toronto court, Lord Black alleged that lawyers and accountants have depleted the company’s few remaining assets in a failed attempt to launch lawsuits to recover money. Lord Black, who is a Hollinger creditor, has proposed a plan to wind up the company, settle a series of lawsuits and divide whatever money remains among creditors.