On this day, the tenth anniversary of Conrad Black offspring, The National Post, I’m remembering the man’s current ordeal and I’d like share my thoughts, if not with the NP readership, at least with the editorial board.
I wonder if, when some three years ago those disgruntled Hollinger shareholders who asked the courts to help them get more money, had any idea of the events they would set in motion. And when the courts deemed Conrad Black’s management team to be evil and removed control from the majority owners, were these shareholders rubbing their hands in anticipation of huge profits now that the evil Conrad Black couldn’t get any more non compete payments? I wonder if those same shareholders now have any second thoughts about the wisdom of bring charges against Conrad Black, especially after seeing what kind of people the courts appointed to temporarily ‘mismanage’ the company. Its become rather easy to see that much of what has transpired since the Black management team was removed has not been of any benefit to the people who originally thought they were being short-changed.
Its also become obvious that the legal industry, both the court appointed directors and the other representatives from the legal system, have been very successful in filling their own wallets while emptying those of the shareholders and Conrad Black’s and making sure that very little actual justice was done.
Now, after confiscating as much of Conrad Black’s assets are they were able to, probably with the intent of limiting his ability to defend himself, the courts have sentenced him to serve 6 ½ years in prison for failing to share non compete payments with those envious Hollinger shareholders. So does that vindicate the launching of the lawsuit by Hollinger shareholders? Is justice being served by upholding their claim and penalizing Conrad Black?
I personally believe we have before us one of the most glaring examples of a legal industry completely out of touch with justice. The proof of this to be found in looking at the value of Hollinger stock since the courts took over. When Conrad Black was removed from control, the stock’s value plummeted. With this in mind, it becomes easy to see how the individuals that choose to buy any news publishing assets from Conrad Black would pay to keep him from re-entering as a competitor. It has always been obvious that non compete promises only needed to be extracted from one individual, Conrad Black, not from other Hollinger shareholders, so why should the undeserving get paid?
In the competitive world of newspaper publishing, the Black controlled Hollinger was considered the third largest newspaper chain in the world, a far cry from its insignificant status today. Clearly, no investors can be found who see the court-appointed opportunistic directors or the envy-riddled Hollinger shareholders as having any competence in the newspaper publishing field. I’m sure that if any members of that forlorn group, suggested they were prepared to publish anything, the competitors would laugh hysterically.
Despite the above, some twelve jurors considering that shareholders of Hollinger do have a legitimate claim to remuneration from the non-compete payments made to Conrad Black. Truth be told, even the company share values were based on Mr. Black’s ability to make newspapers profitable. Its easy to see that the financial community doesn’t agree with the jury and considers the remnants of Hollinger to be of rather insignificant value as compared to it worth before Mr. Black disappeared from the board of directors .
I cannot think of a more clear example, showing explicitly what ratio of value a good CEO has to a company in relation to the shareholders who just put up a little money. ‘Riding on the shoulders of giants’ comes to mind as an apt description.
But what of the legal system that laid the charges and encouraged a group of reason-challenged jurors to bring forth a guilty charge on Conrad Black? Is there no one to sit in judgment of the real thieves, the group of people who deliberately destroyed Conrad Black and in doing so, successfully destroyed the company and squandered the shareholder’s assets, all the while handsomely rewarding themselves, the huge tax-collector financed legal industry with the clout to impoverish anyone?
At this stage of the fiasco, I’d say the shareholders got what they deserved and only Conrad Black is paying any penalty. If the judge had sought to help the shareholders while penalizing Mr. Black, she’d have ignored giving jail time. She’d have ordered Conrad Black to manage Hollinger for the five years for a token salary of possibly a dollar a year, while only retaining his own shares and the profits from them. I’d say that’s probably the only way Hollinger shareholders would ever have gotten a financial return on their soured investment.
When he is released, Conrad Black will be some seventy years old and, thanks to Jean Cretien, without Canadian citizenship. If we want to do something for the man that started this paper, the only Canadian paper with which I have a good deal of agreement, each of us can lobby this government as hard as possible, to reinstate Conrad Black’s citizenship. We couldn’t add a better citizen to this country.