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Trump signs full pardon for former media mogul Conrad Black, who wrote flattering bio of president

Morgan Greene, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for Conrad Black, former executive of the Chicago Sun-Times' parent company and disgraced media mogul, on Wednesday.

In December 2007, Black, the former chairman and chief executive of Hollinger International Inc., was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison after being convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. His sentence was later cut nearly in half, with a judge citing Black's tutoring of inmates.

The globe-trotting tycoon and convicted felon was accused of tanking what was then one of the largest newspaper companies in the world, resigning from the company after criminal allegations that he and other executives had looted the company of about $32 million through a bonus-disguising scheme.

Black's sentencing followed a guilty plea from his longtime business partner David Radler. The odd couple started working together in their 20s, turning an investment in an English-language daily in the French-speaking province of Quebec into an empire that once boasted more than 300 papers. In his heyday, Black, a native of Canada who later became a British lord, was known to enjoy the company of Henry Kissinger and Elton John. Radler once served as publisher of the Sun-Times.

By the time of Black's sentencing, the Hollinger empire was diminished to just the Sun-Times and a group of suburban papers. The stock of the company was trading at about $1, down from a high of $20.35 in 2004, "weighed down by a circulation scandal under Black's watch and nearly $200 million in legal fees it spent defending Black and other former Hollinger executives," according to Tribune reporting.

In 2007, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced Black, then 63, to 6 1/2 years in prison. He was found to be responsible for $6.1 million of losses and obstructing justice by removing 13 boxes of documents from his Toronto office.

 

"I frankly cannot understand how somebody of your stature, on top of the media empire you were on top of, can engage in the conduct you did and put everything at risk, including your reputation and integrity," St. Eve said.

Following his 2005 indictment, Black long defended his innocence, referring to the team of federal prosecutors as "Nazis." Around the time of his sentencing, he told one British interviewer that he had done "absolutely nothing wrong."

At a 2011 hearing, Black closed his 20-minute speech with Rudyard Kipling's poem "If," which, the Tribune noted, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich quoted from after he was named in a federal complaint.

On Wednesday night, Black tweeted and posted his response to the pardon.

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