Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Lord Tubby of Fleece

This Magazine Staff

So it’s official: Conrad Black, David Radler, and a few other associates spent the better part of the last decade helping themselves to the income of Hollinger International.
A special committee of Hollinger International on Tuesday issued a report stating that “Hollinger was systematically manipulated and used by its controlling shareholders for their sole benefit, and in a manner that violated every concept of fiduciary duty.”
At the Montreal film festival last weekend, I caught the premiere of Citizen Black, the new documentary by Debbie Melnyck, known for her previous documentary about Frank Magazine. It’s a great film, chronicling the rise and fall of one of the world’s last great press barons.
What struck me was how poorly Black comes across on camera, in comparison with his written persona. Sure, he’s still all puffed up, always sounding like he’s swallowed the OED whole, but it comes across as terribly forced and rehearsed, and he’s obviously ridiculously insecure. (Apparently Trudeau was the same way — he worked very hard at cultivating an aura of easy intelligence).

Black is clearly a man who thinks that he believes in the old-fashioned conservative virtues of honesty, integrity, and reputation. Yet just as George Costanza always wanted to pretend to be an architect, Conrad Black simply likes to pretend to be honest.
A while back, he appealed to a judge in Delaware to help him to “restore my reputation as an honest man”. The judge declined, saying: “I found Conrad Black evasive and unreliable… His explanations do not have the ring of truth… At worst, the board was duped and there was fraud on the board.”
Which is about as close as a judge can get to saying, milord is a liar.
Similarly, at a book-signing in Toronto shortly after the red ink hit the fan at Hollinger, Black stated that he would immediately return over $7million in overpaid management fees. He looked at the cameras with a pained look on his face and said, “Don’t call me a shirker… I can’t STAND a shirker.”
How very Trumanesque. But as Melnyck documents, Black immediately changed his mind and decided not to return the money. He spends the rest of the film blaming his misfortune on his accountants, various underlings, the SEC… everyone but himself. It was like watching Liberals testify at the sponsorship inquiry.
I’ve always liked Tubby. A pompous, social-climbing blowhard, yes, but fascinating nevertheless.
Well, fascinating no more. Now, he’s just another evasive, greedy loser, whose pronouncements, while still multi-syllabic, don’t have the slightest ring of truth.

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