Tuesday, October 19, 2010

(No.120) A reply from Conrad Black

On July 23 this year I posted a column (No.104) to RickardsRead.com "Rooting for Conrad Black" in which I began by referring to my having attended Carleton University in Ottawa at the same time as several interesting people including Conrad Black. I went on to explain why I had been "rooting" for him in his legal difficulties in the U.S. and quoted from an email I had sent to him after he went to prison.

I received several responses to that column, most recently from Conrad Black. With his consent I present below his comments as well as excerpts from selected responses from followers of RickardsRead.

A suggestion: for readers to appreciate the context of Conrad Black's comments (below) they can read or reread my July column to which he is responding. That column (No.104) is easily accessible -- like all columns on RickardsRead.com -- via the links listed by date appearing in the left hand margin beside every column.


an email of Oct 17, 2010 from Conrad Black:

Your comments about me in July, just as I was released from prison, have turned up in a troll through the heavy message traffic of that time as I was changing residential and email addresses and I apologize for my lateness in thanking you, once again for your kind words.

I was as confident as you say, not because I have much regard for the American justice system, but because I knew the facts and knew the poverty of the government's case and the liberties the prosecution had taken to win every sliver of the charges that they made at trial. They started with 18 counts, 13 went to the unsolomonic jury, and only four were not acquittals, and they were nonsense.

There was, and could be, no evidence of a crime and all their witnesses appeared with rods on their backs extorting perjury. We tore their witnesses to pieces and they dropped three of their counts during the trial. Even during the trial, a good part of the media saw how weak the case was, but flopped back to pile onto me when there were a few convictions. There never was any alternative but to fight it out, and either win or go down fighting.

Your kind words are no less appreciated for that. I share your admiration for Naomi Griffiths [a history professor and Dean of Arts at Carleton University] but have not been in touch with her for some years. In fact, you motivate me to call her.

I knew Esmond Cooper-Key slightly, via my late friend Wilda Lossing. He was as you described. Of course I know his Harmsworth relatives now. I don't recall meeting Patrick Shaughnessy but did meet, presumably, his father, a pleasant man, though no world beater in any field.

I don't think any of us qualify as the British aristocracy. Those are the great Tory and Whig hereditary peers, like the Marquis of Salisbury, the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Carrington. The best of them are impressive people and give a glimpse of how the British controlled so much of the world with what was essentially a confidence trick of an empire.

As you wrote, there was a time when I had few defenders in public, though more, privately, than was evident. Your gracious and, if I may, perceptive comments, were gratefully received initially and when restated. I take the latest piece as a comparison of my personal qualities to those of Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau and could not fail to be deeply flattered by that.

You are a thoughtful and generous man and I would be pleased if our paths crossed one day.


from an email Oct 18:

As I said I would, I called Naomi Griffiths and had a very nice talk with her. I had had no contact with her for seven years. She is in good health and spirits and is writing a biography of Romeo Leblanc, the former g-g. Thank you for putting me in mind of her. There are no friends like old friends. Best wishes to you.


Conrad Black


Excerpts from selected email responses to column No. 104 "Rooting for Conrad Black" by several current and former financial services executives:

1. I fully agree. He was pursued for politically correct reasons and although some may have found the personal service agreements inappropriate, none were concealed and he built an empire. The naysayers have effectively destroyed [shareholder] value and shareowners are certainly not better off than when Conrad was at the helm.

Thanks for the well stated views.

2. Well said. I admire you for similar reasons. [Also for ] your steadfast dedication to our [life insurance] industry and, most significantly, career field forces.

3. I agree with you. Black is characteristic of one of the better traits in many Canadians and I continue to root for him.


CORRECTION: in column No.118 "Great-West '0', par policyholders '1' ", there was a typo that requires correction. I stated that as part of its financial arrangements for the takeover of London Life, Great-West Lifeco had transferred $20 million from the Great-West par policyholder fund to the shareholders. In fact the amount of that transfer was $40 million.


Alastair Rickard


email: Alastair.Rickard@sympatico.com