Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rattler

A British Columbia Superior Court judge has frozen the assets of former Hollinger exec, now stoolie, David Radler. Using one of those ex parte injunctions (um, just when will these finally be struck down???) that allows a party in a lawsuit to get a court hearing without the formalities of informing the other party, the court limited Radler to $25,000 a month to live on. Radler, apparently, will use some of that money to appeal.
I'm of two minds on all this. First, there are a lot of sleazy bastards in business, especially in media, and a few more should be in the dock. But I think Black is right when he says he's the victim of prosecutors and shareholders' rights activists. Maybe Black played fast and loose with Hollinger, but anyone with any sense knew when they bought Hollinger, they were buying shares of Black. Hollinger was Black, warts and all. I doubt very much that shareholder equity in Black's former properties have improved much under new managment, or that, in the end, removing Black made good business sense.
Black is not an enigma. He's a very straight-up character. Black has the balls to go after, and to do, things that most other people would only fantasize. He appeared to be scheming, but, in fact, he was simply reckless, but his was a recklessness with some brains behid it, and, for a while, it made fortunes and careers for many, many people.
I'm going out on a limb here, but I believe Black will walk on his charges. The idea that Hollinger deserved the non-compete money is plain silly. It was Conrad Black that Canwest didn't want to compete against. Right now, if both Hollinger and Black reneged on the non-compete clause, who would David Asper sue? Who would you want competing against you, the remnants of Hollinger, or Conrad Black? I'd go up against Hollinger any day. Black, who can get up in court and point to the improved Daily Telegraph and to the National Post... well, he's a great newspaperman.
What if Conrad Black does go down the crapper? Is taking Black away from the newspaper business and putting him in jail a plus or a minus for society? Is locking up the guy who wrote the definitive biographies of Duplessis and FDR good public policy? And are we better off for losing one of Canada's great characters, a guy who, if nothing else, has given great entertainment value for the money.
He's already been cheated out of his citizenship by Jean Chretien, who presided over the most crooked regime in Canadian history. His wife is mocked in once-great newspapers. Many of the people who got their break in journalism from Black are feasting on Black's fall from social grace. Some of his friends, who waxed fat at his table and took his money to be directors and consultants, have turned their backs, knowing that Black is too much of a gentleman to have done the same thing to them.
I think I'll go to Chicago this winter and watch this play out.

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