Friday, May 4, 2012

The Changeling

“Has he changed? Oh my God yes,” says Michael Levine, his agent. “Conrad has come to appreciate what it means to be disadvantaged He is a far more sensitive and introspective person than he was six, seven, eight years ago.” Vanity Fair 
“You know, the judge told me she thought I was a better man now, and I took that as a sort of head-patting expression on her part, you know, that she had the wisdom to send me to prison. But I think she’s right. I probably am. It is a broadening experience.” Vanity Fair

Today, Conrad Black (aka Baron Black of Crossharbour) was released from a US federal prison, having served three years for defrauding investors in a company he controlled (before his legal problems Black was a major figure in newspaper publishing; his properties included the Daily Telegraph in England, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Jerusalem Post). He was promptly re-arrested by immigration authorities and deported to the country of his birth, Canada, where he has been granted a temporary resident permit—temporary, because in 2001 “Black renounced citizenship of his native home,” as the Guardian (UK) put it, “in exchange for the seductions of the British House of Lords.” 

The peerage fitted perfectly with the lavish spending and in-your-face flaunting of wealth by Black and his wife. (They “once had the gall to attend a party at Kensington Palace dressed as the power-crazed Cardinal Richelieu and Marie Antoinette, the most hated woman in pre-revolutionary France,”  the Observer noted.) And as a Guardian editorial stated in 2007:
Once Conrad Black expected to get what he wanted. If he wanted to refurbish his Rolls-Royce at a cost of $90,000, he did. A $42,870 birthday party for his wife? So be it. And if a jet crept on to the wish list, he is said to have told investors: "I can have a 747 if I want."
 His wife was no slouch either: 
Asked why Hollinger [Black’s company] needed two private jets, she once explained, “It is always best to have two planes, because however well one plans ahead, one always finds one is on the wrong continent.” Vanity Fair 
Black’s legal woes have taken a big chunk out of his bank account. But as Bryan Burrough  wrote in VF: 
For all the talk of his financial “ruin,” Black won’t exactly lead a pauper’s life in Toronto. A good guess of his net worth is $80 million—80 percent less than the $400 million he could once claim, but far from “ruined.” “I can live on $80 million,” he notes with an arching of his eyebrow. “At least I think I can.”

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