Conrad Black is back in Canada this month after being released from U.S. prison where he served 42 months for massive fraud. At one point Black ran a media empire considered the third largest in the world, including publications like the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London and the Jerusalem Post.
Black is nothing if not connected. He had previously renounced his Canadian citizenship, the country of his birth, because he was offered a peerage by the U.K. for which he had to be a British citizen. His title, Lord Black of Crossharbour, suited the high-profile life he chased with glamorous feature articles in Vanity Fair and other magazines. In his memoir, he wrote how sad it was when he was forced to sell one of his many mansions for more than $30 million. He compared the hardship of his wife leaving their Palm Beach palace to that of European Jews being forced from their homes by Nazis with the clothes on their back. His wife “departed it with 800 packing cases” according to The Guardian.
As Lord Black sold off community newspapers his company owned, he asked for the equivalent of protection money by promising never to compete with the new owners in return for direct, side payments to him. Because he had drained millions from his company through these complicated, hidden deals and others involving shell companies, Black was able to finally overturn some of his convictions based on subsequent Supreme Court rulings.
“One prison employee claimed in an affidavit that Black had arranged for inmates — ‘acting like servants’ — to iron his clothes, mop his floor and perform other chores. Another employee told her Black once insisted she address him as ‘Lord Black,’” according to an AP report in USA Today.