Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 7: wherein Conrad is charged with crimes
As chapter seven opens, Conrad Black recalls the release of Richard Breeden’s lengthy investigative report called, somewhat hilariously, “A Corporate Kleptocracy.” Surprisingly, the long-awaited publication is a relief to Black—all of the alleged “skullduggery” turned out to just be rehashed accusations. Not much new information came out of the report, which, incidentally, is how we’re starting to feel about the Baron’s memoir (although it is expanding our vocabulary).
Not surprisingly, Black endures a fresh round of attacks from the media savages, who write new books and new articles that compare him to Cardinal Richelieu, Dr. Faustus and Fagan, while Babs is ridiculed for her pricey jogging clothes. Did Black mention how innocent his beloved Barbara is in all this? Well, he does it again a whole bunch of times in this chapter.
After Breeden’s report is released, Black is charged with a slew of SEC civil infractions. No sweat. It’s not like he’s going to get indicted on criminal charges. That’ll never happen.
Meanwhile, after this latest barrage of media attention, Black realizes he’ll never be able to return to Hollinger. Um, duh. He’s kicked out by the “witches’ coven” (the board), and to add insult to injury, informed of this fact on an otherwise pleasant walk through Central Park, right near the bench named for him and Barbara by Mayor Bloomberg (just in case we forgot that he knows important people).
Eventually, after a long, drawn-out deliberation, Hollinger Inc. is privatized and Black has only his new civil charges with which to contend. The chapter concludes with Black at his Toronto home—we’re not kidding—watching deer eat apples in his orchard as he hopes for a peaceful future.
In the words of the Lord:
• On the possibility of criminal charges: “Only when my dear Barbara, always prone to attacks of generic rabbinical pessimism, sadly whispered, ‘They’re going to take you away from me’ did I really fear a criminal trial.”
• On the savagery of his enemies: “All my opponents needed to do was bandy my name about, like Chamberlain flourishing his signed agreement with Hitler after Munich in 1938, to achieve their ends.”
• On writing letters to the editor: “I enjoyed writing the odd letter for publication. It gave me some satisfaction, however evanescent… These were mere pinpricks, of course, in a massive wall of orchestrated press animosity, but I hoped they showed I was still alive and that my (sparsely attended) corporate funeral had not yet taken place.”
• On his Bridle Path oasis: “Barbara and I walked (holding hands, as the Globe and Mail breathlessly reported) in the late afternoon along the street my father had created 50 years before when he developed the neighbourhood now known as the Bridle Path. I had carefully assembled and placed 20,000 books in the libraries and there remained important traces of the original house where I was brought up. The long-serving staff were thoughtful and unobtrusive, and the swimming pool and chapel I had built were great sources of exercise and refreshment of body and spirit.”