Black and Browne and Read All Over

Black and Browne and Read All Over

Those whom the gods would destroy they would first make into a sideshow in a sleazy British tabloid scandal involving a disgraced peer and—gasp!—a Canadian “rent boy.” Former BP CEO John Browne, a.k.a. Baron Browne of Madingley, was forced to resign last week over allegations that he used company funds to support his lover, Jeff Chevalier. Over the weekend, Chevalier gave a lengthy interview to The Mail on Sunday, which included the following description of a fancy-pants party he attended with Browne in the south of France:

“Sport was also had with Conrad Black, the former newspaper proprietor now facing trial in America for alleged financial wrongdoing, whom Mr. Chevalier met at a party held by Sir Ronald Cohen, boss of Apax Partners venture capitalists, and an adviser to Gordon Brown. Mr. Chevalier says: ‘John and I were introduced to Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel at Ronnie Cohen’s 60th in the South of France… John spoke with him for around 15 minutes, but had little chance to get a word in edgeways. Conrad spoke of his innocence like a broken record… Towards the end of the conversation, Barbara was clutching Conrad’s leg with her claws. She was clearly not interested in having Conrad speak with John. We said our goodbyes and left their table. They were the talk of the party, and clearly no one at the function…gave any suggestion that the man might be innocent of what he has been charged with. They were all laughing and making snide comments about him behind his back.’”

Other than that gem, the weekend papers focused mostly on Radler. Tom Bower of The Times, Andrew Clark of The Guardian and Jennifer Wells of the Star all weighed in. Wells’ piece is far and away the best feature in the run-up. Balanced and realistic, her analysis gives the sense of Radler’s shortcomings as a witness for the prosecution (not least of which is the very deal that put him on the stand in the first place), as well as his potential to do serious damage to the defence. (Compare this to Christie Blatchford’s drooling encomium to Eddie Greenspan and you’ll see why the Globe must rue the day they let Wells go.) This morning the piling-on: both Peter Worthington in the Sun and Theresa Tedesco in the Post offer opinion pieces concluding that Radler amounts to a vile combination of Judas and Brutus and that he arrives on the stand without a friend in this world. Finally, Rick Westhead in the Star puts paid to the widely reported idea that Radler’s plea agreement requires that he give a show-stopping bravura performance on the witness stand:

“Of course, it’s also possible that Radler will be a disappointment for prosecutors. Even so, several former government lawyers who reviewed his plea agreement said the only way it could be quashed is if he lies on the stand. ‘If Radler does a poor job, or at least comes across as a shifty witness whom the jurors do not credit, that would not be enough to get the plea agreement pulled,’ said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor, who specializes in white-collar crime.”

So: Seconds out. Gentlemen, box.

The TRUE story about Lord Browne—by ex-rent boy lover [Daily Mail] Radler set to testify [Toronto Star]Radler takes the stand [Toronto Star]Brutus takes the stand [National Post]Now the main event [Toronto Sun]Radler on stand in Black trial [Times of London]Black’s nemesis will need to act the part [Guardian]Final showdown looms in Black trial [Globe and Mail]Thank God for Eddie [Globe and Mail]