The WSJ editors, under the fetching title Black and Blue, pouts today about the conviction last Friday of Conrad Black on mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges, fussing that "[n]o one seems to like a conservative press baron these days, especially no one else in the media."
Who could "conservative press baron" possibly refer to? And who cares whether anybody likes him? A paper that thinks he’ll soon own it?
But the self-referential nature of the editorial doesn’t disturb Blawgletter as much as its judgment that Mr. Black’s criminality "strikes us more as a case of hubris than rapacious intent." Why? Because "the jury convicted Lord Black of stealing a few million dollars" rather than tens or hundreds of millions. Chump change!
The WSJ seems to have forgotten the 2004 report, by a special committee of the Hollinger International board, that described Mr. Black’s press barony as "a corporate kleptocracy". The report went on:
[T]he evidence reviewed by the Committee establishes an overwhelming record of abuse, overreaching, and violations of fiduciary duties by Black and [former chief operating officer F. David] Radler, the two controlling shareholders.
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At Hollinger, Black as both CEO and controlling shareholder, together with his associates, created an entity in which ethical corruption was a defining characteristic of the leadership team.
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Not once or twice, but on dozens of occasions Hollinger was victimized by its controlling shareholders as they transferred to themselves and their affiliates more than $400 million in the last seven years.
Does $400 million worth of peculation plus diverting millions more strike you as a "more a case of hubris than of rapacious intent"?