Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories
The prosecution continues to grind at the idea that, despite the black letter legality of the non-compete agreements, purchasers never intended for money to flow directly into the pockets of Black, Radler, et al. A number of papers picked up on a moment of light drama. In the course of describing David Radler’s in-your-face negotiating style, a lawyer for one of the purchasers got into a back-and-forth with Jack Boultbee’s lawyer, Gus Newman:
“Recalling a 1998 meeting concerning the $456-million sale of small-town newspapers by Hollinger International to his client, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Thomas Henson described how Radler went ballistic after seeing the proposed purchase price. Before storming out of the room, the Hollinger executive allegedly swore at the lawyer and complained he was wasting Radler’s ‘fill-in-the-blank’ time.‘He was right in your face, nose to nose, right?’ asked Gus Newman.‘Yes, he was,’ Henson confirmed. ‘But it was an act.’‘At the end, you came to the conclusion that [Radler] was an actor?’ the lawyer continued.‘It was all an effort to get an upper hand in the negotiations,’ the witness said.‘This next question is going to be objected to but, your honour, please let me say it because I’ve been saving this line for a long time,’ Newman said to a bemused Judge Amy St. Eve.‘So, if you were a film critic or theatre critic, would you say [Radler] was a good actor?’Prosecutor Edward Siskel jumped to his feet in objection.‘I would have been very disappointed if you hadn’t objected,’ St. Eve joked.”
This exchange is more telling for what it says about the tightly scripted quality of the case than the case itself, with both sides playing out a kind of highly stylized gavotte directed by the judge and assessed by the jury.
Beyond the court proceedings, the Wall Street Journal ran a second opinion piece balancing last week’s anti-Black tirade by Alan Murray. This time, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Holman W. Jenkins Jr., toeing the libertarian line, suggests that the Black prosecution is yet another instance of unwarranted interference in the marketplace. Holman concludes that “What’s missing today is the universal solvent of a lively expectation that hostile takeovers can befall managements that hog too much value for themselves. Unfortunately, legal and regulatory changes have made these all but impossible. Yet hostile takeovers were a far more productive way of closing the circle of accountability than the corporate governance wrecking ball aimed at Hollinger has proved to be.” You can almost hear Black, the bit about hostile takeovers notwithstanding, harrumphing in agreement over his morning grapefruit.
Waste Case [ Wall Street Journal]Black trial hears details of contentious non-compete payments [National Post] A Case study in Lord Black’s business deals [Globe and Mail]’You’re wasting my fill-in-the-blank time’ [Chicago Sun-Times]