Thursday, October 15, 2009

Catching Up With Black and Radler

Posted By on 10.15.09 at 04:50 PM

Whatever happened to Conrad Black and David Radler, the two scamps from Canada who in addition to the Sun-Times controlled about half the dailies in Canada at one point, and, when they decided to sell them off, arranged huge noncompete payments for themselves that landed them both behind bars?

Radler pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of mail fraud and testified against Black, an act of attrition that earned him a 29-month sentence. He served 10, was released from prison in British Columbia, and is now back in the business, running a small chain of papers called the Alberta Newspaper Group out of Vancouver. Meanwhile, the vestige of Black and Radler's former empire, the Sun-Times Media Group, declared bankruptcy, and recently so did CanWest Global Communications, the Canadian media giant that bought a lot of those titles Black and Radler unloaded for about $3 billion.

Who better now to weigh in on the sad state the press finds itself in than David Radler? Here he is on Canadian TV surveying the industry. "The newspaper business hasn’t fallen off a cliff," he says. "Most of the newspapers…have weathered the [economic] storm, probably not as well as they wanted to and probably not as well as they should have, but the point is they’ve weathered the storm. We're now at a point where there's potential to increase the values of those operations."

Would you be a buyer? he's asked. "If financing was available, I would consider it, yes," he says. Is it? "Well, financing is more difficult in my situation than it used to be," he allows. But, "I'm in the business and I'm in the business to grow."

Black was convicted of three counts of fraud and one of obstruction of justice and sentenced to 78 months in prison, which he's serving in Florida. His appeal will be heard in December by the Supreme Court. Prison hasn't silenced Black, and who would wish it had? Just on Thursday Canada's National Post, a paper he founded, carried his views on Barack Obama's presidency, an essay that begins, "The whole Obama era to date has been wasted in a historic, amateurish botch of the health-care issue."

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