Monday, February 23, 2004

A 'loathsome laughing stock'?

Barbara Amiel Black, wife of notorious businessman Conrad, is apparently incensed at the reporting of the story of how she and her husband treated one of their disposable proletarian dinner party guests. The victim of the Blacks' 'hospitality', Eleanor Mills, stands by her version of the story. Mrs. Black's main problem seems to be that the story should never have been reported, as the lower classes aren't supposed to embarrass their betters by speaking the truth. On the business front, Conrad testified in a Delaware court on Friday:

"I have been horribly defamed and in fact characterized and stigmatized as an embezzler."

and

"I am trying to retrieve my reputation as an honest man."

After you pick yourself up off the floor and manage to stop laughing, consider that Black has launched an $850 million libel suit against the members of the Hollinger International special committee who are looking into allegedly unauthorized payments made to Black and others. The suit claims that the committee members sought to "destroy Black personally, professionally and financially and to transform him from a respected owner of a successful media chain into a loathsome laughing stock". A 'loathsome laughing stock'? He filed the suit in Ontario, where ridiculous libel laws mean that proper discussion of wrongdoing can always be stopped by the rich and well-connected. The members of the committee should have been expecting this, as use of libel laws to stifle consideration of Black's more questionable actions has long been part of his Canadian modus operandi. Richard Breeden, former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said that "Mr. Black begins many conversations by threatening everybody", and recalled one meeting between Black and Hollinger's interim CEO Gordon Paris that began with Black threatening to sue all of them for libel in Canada. What a charming man.

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