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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 14:12 GMT
Citizen Black facing new trial

By Gavin Stamp
BBC News business reporter

Lord Conrad Black
Lord Black has won many battles but faces his toughest yet
Lord Conrad Black may have reached the lowest point in his professional career but those who know him say he remains defiant.

Over the past two years, the business tycoon has watched his publishing empire slip from his grasp.

He has been accused of - and vehemently denied - using shareholders' money to enrich himself and to fund a lavish personal lifestyle.

He has seen his reputation assailed in the media, particularly in Britain, his adopted home, and his native Canada.


His self-styled image as a larger-than-life mogul had won him as many enemies as friends even before his latest problems began in 2003.

I think he always felt it is my company and I am going to do what I want
Deborah Melnick, documentary filmmaker
Now Lord Black, who is 61, faces his toughest battle yet.

He must defend himself against eight criminal counts of fraud in the US, each carrying a possible jail sentence of up to five years.

While contemplating the apparent downward spiral of his career, observers say that the last emotion he is likely to feel is remorse.

After all, although he has been under the cosh for most of the past two years, he has yet to be found guilty of anything.

Lord and Lady Black
Lord Black allegedly misused company money for his wife's party

"Conrad Black definitely thinks he hasn't done anything wrong," Debbie Melnick, a filmmaker who made a documentary about Lord Black's rise and fall - Citizen Black - told the BBC.

"Even if he were to go to prison, in his own mind it would be as a prisoner of conscience."

Career in print

For one whose career be measured in column inches, Lord Black's rise to power and fall from grace has been suitably well chronicled.

He was selling exam papers while still a schoolboy and at the tender age of 25, he already owned two provincial Canadian newspapers.

But his empire really took off when he inherited his father's fortune in the 1980s and moved to the UK.

He believed intrinsically that there was a really important game for him to play in Britain
Roy Greenslade, media commentator

In 1992, the confirmed Anglophile took control of the Daily Telegraph, pitting himself against Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times, in a two-horse race to be the voice of Britain's Conservative establishment.

He did not shirk the battle, slashing the Telegraph's cover price in an aggressive attempt to win new readers.

Political power

Lord Black cultivated the image of a newspaper magnate of the old school and was acutely aware of the political and social status it gave him.

"He believed intrinsically that there was a really important game for him to play in Britain," media commentator Roy Greenslade told the BBC.

"That's why he was so keen to be a Lord, to get his peerage."

This transformation was duly achieved in 2000 when Conrad Black renounced his Canadian citizenship and entered the House of Lords.

November 2005: Lord Black is criminally indicted on eight counts of fraud
June 2004: Black quits Hollinger International board
November 2004: Black resigns as chairman and chief executive of Hollinger
October 2004: US court dismisses $1.2bn racketeering suit against Black brought by Hollinger International
June 2004: Telegraph Group sold to Barclay Brothers for 660m
February 2004: US court blocks Black's sale of Hollinger stake
January: 2004 Black sells controlling stake in Hollinger International to the Barclay Brothers
January 2004: Black sacked as Hollinger International chairman and sued for allegedly taking unauthorised payments
November 2003: Black resigns as chief executive of Hollinger International amid claims that he received unauthorised payments

Despite numerous run-ins with journalists, shareholders and politicians, Lord Black had always managed to come out on top, even finding time to write a biography of his hero, US President Franklin Roosevelt.

Allegations surface

However, in November 2003, Lord Black resigned as chief executive of holding company Hollinger International following allegations that he had received huge sums of money through unauthorised payments.

Hollinger International later accused him of committing "corporate kleptocracy" at the firm while he lost a legal battle to block the sale of the Telegraph Group, the source of so much of his influence.

Allegations of wild personal spending soon emerged - the indictment claims Black spent almost $14,000 of company money on champagne and wine at his wife's birthday party - making uncomfortable reading.

Convictions in fraud cases are notoriously difficult to achieve so Lord Black may still have the last laugh on his detractors.

However, there are many who are already happy to pass judgment.

"I think greed in the end got the best of him," says Debbie Melnick.

"I think he always felt it is my company and I am going to do what I want."

Details of the charges Lord Black faces

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