Conrad BlackAugust 25, 1944) is a Canadian-born British biographer, financier and newspaper magnate.
Through his Ravelston Corporation he has a 82% share-holding in the Toronto-based Hollinger Inc group which, through Hollinger International Inc., owns or controls several newspapers, notably in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel, including The Daily Telegraph (1985), the Chicago Sun-Times (1994) and The Jerusalem Post (1988). He also controls the right-wing magazine The Spectator (1988) and holds a minority interest in The New York Sun (2002). Hollinger once owned a large number of Canadian newspapers, accounting for a plurality of that country's daily newspaper circulation, and acquired and relaunched the Financial Post as the National Post (1998), in large part to get a foothold in the competitive Toronto newspaper market.
Black was born into a wealthy Toronto family. His father George Montegu Black, Jr., was the president of Canadian Breweries, an international brewing conglomerate. Conrad Black was first educated at Upper Canada College from which he was expelled. He continued his education at Carleton University (History, 1965) and Laval University (Law, 1970), later completing a Master's degree (MA) at McGill University. He became involved in a number of businesses mainly newspapers but including mining and publishing. His family founded the Ravelston Corporation in 1969 as an investment vehicle. For a time, Black worked for a small Sherbrooke, Quebec newspaper with a friend, David Radler. After a few years, they bought the Sherbrooke Record and in 1971 formed "Sterling Newspapers Limited", a holding company that would acquire several other small newspapers.
Conrad Black was taken under the wing of Bud McDougald and E. P. Taylor, two of the most powerful businessmen in Canada. Following the death of McDougald, in 1978 Conrad Black acquired the shares owned by McDougald's widow in Argus Corporation, a mammoth Canadian holding company, whose holdings at the time Black took it over included some of Canada's finest blue-chip companies such as Dominion Stores, Canada's largest supermarket chain, Massey Ferguson, Canada's large multi-national farm machinery corporation, Hollinger Mines, an important gold-mining company in Timmins, Ontario, and Norcen Energy, an energy and pipeline operation. His record in managing these operations is deemed by most financial experts as less than successful.
In 1985, he first entered the UK newspaper business, buying into the Telegraph group. By 1990 his companies ran over 400 newspaper titles in North America. Many of these were disposed of towards the end of the 1990s with around 150 titles being sold in a single deal with CanWest Global Communications Corp. He launched the National Post in 1998 but sold his interest in 2001. He gave up the majority of his remaining Canadian media interests in 2001.
Conrad Black gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a British life peer because of Canada's Nickle Resolution that prevents Canadians from receiving foreign honours. He had attempted to hold dual nationality, suing the Canadian government in 2001. Black, who is considered far right-wing (especially by Canadian standards), has sparred several times with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who is much more left-wing. Black has made several controversial statements, including that Canada should join the United States and that the country should abandon its universal publicly funded health care system or Medicare. Ironically, Black's scholarly work on Franklin Delano Roosevelt (published in November 2003) clearly shows him as a strong supporter of Roosevelt's liberal New Deal.
Roosevelt's biography was met with positive reviews; it followed by some thirty years his biography of Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, widely considered the definitive biography of Duplessis, written when Black was in his twenties.
On November 17, 2003 it was announced that he would be resigning as chief executive of Hollinger after an internal inquiry determined that he had received over $7 million in unauthorized payments of company funds. The United States SEC has launched an investigation of his company's affairs. On January 17, 2004 Hollinger International reported that the executive committee of the board of directors had removed Lord Black as chairman. At the same time the special committee in Hollinger already investigating the unauthorised payments filed a lawsuit in New York for the recovery of the money. Hollinger International also announced filed a USD 200 million lawsuit against Black and his former top lieutenant David Radler as well as the companies Black has used to control the publishing it.
Black is just the latest in a series of Canadian-born British press lords. His predecessors were:Barbara Amiel, a well-known right-wing columnist.