Money out the Window

Money out the Window

In a sense, it’s not just Conrad Black who’s on trial but many in a generation of what Peter Newman, in his 1981 second volume of The Acquisitors: The Canadian Establishment, called “The Inheritors.” Here’s how Newman set it up:

“The Inheritors: they are the chosen crown princes of the vanished or vanquished corporate rulers… Canada’s Establishment has managed to spawn an impressive clutch of Inheritors. ‘Somewhat to the astonishment of our leftist friends,’ observes Conrad Black… ‘there is a definite regenerative element in Canadian capitalism…Fred Eaton, Hal Jackman, Galen Weston and Ken Thomson aren’t squandering the money their forebears made. They don’t make international buffoons of themselves, throwing money out of windows or taking fifteen wives. That’s something that should assure all of us about a certain element of stability and solidity in Canadian society.’”

But many of The Inheritors did come to shame through greed, lousy management, even the throwing money out windows that Black insisted was not the new breed’s bent.

Gone is the retail giant Eaton’s. Gone are the Brascans and the Edpers: the next generation Bronfmans have squandered much of their inheritance on ill advised Hollywood ventures. The Reichmanns lost much of their empire. Conrad awaits his fate.

In fairness, Galen Weston has carried on the family tradition impeccably, as has Hal Jackman. But by and large, the old Toronto establishment is fading fast, and the accompanying culture of entitlement along with it.

I have a theory that in Canada’s celebrity-deprived society, where money-making is prized above all else, our business elite become our stars, and are built up then torn down like so many Hollywood leading men and women. Their salaries and pay packages are probed, their lifestyles endlessly examined (look at the attention paid to Heather and Gerry’s ever-expanding mansion in Rosedale), their parties and fundraisers the subject of giant photo spreads.

In this environment, there’s a certain inevitability to Black’s current situation. And—feeding an appetite for further ugly revelations about a near-forgotten time—he may be dragging what’s left of the old establishment along with him.