Disgraced international press tycoon Conrad Black was indicted on 11 counts of wire and mail fraud.
Disgraced international press tycoon Conrad Black, who stepped down as head of his media empire in 2004 amid charges that he and other executives looted the company, was indicted on 11 counts of wire and mail fraud in Chicago on Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the high-living Canadian — who renounced his citizenship in 2001 to accept a British lordship — helped steal $51.8 million from Hollinger International, which at one point had owned the Chicago Sun-Times, Jerusalem Post and London Telegraph newspapers, as well as a majority of Canada’s English-language papers.
Fitzgerald issued an arrest warrant for Black, 61, whose whereabouts are unknown. He faces up to 40 years in prison and $5 million in fines if convicted on all charges. Fitzgerald said he would seek Black’s extradition if he does not turn himself in.
“Officers and directors of publicly traded companies who steer shareholders’ money into their pockets should not lie to the board of directors to get permission to do so,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The indictment charges that the insiders at Hollinger — all the way to the top of the corporate ladder — whose job it was to safeguard the shareholders, made it their job to steal and conceal.”
A 2004 Hollinger investigation found that Black and other top company officials pocketed more than $400 million in company money over seven years, reigning over what was labeled a “corporate kleptocracy.” The report said Black and his wife treated the Hollinger corporate jet as a private shuttle between cities, such as Chicago and Toronto, and vacation spots.
They took frequent trips to Palm Springs, Calif., and one 33-hour round trip to the Polynesian island of Bora Bora, which cost the company $530,000, the report said. It also said Black charged the company $90,000 to refurbish a Rolls-Royce, $40,000 to throw a birthday party for his wife and $8 million to buy memorabilia of President Franklin Roosevelt, about whom Black wrote a book.
Also indicted Thursday were former Hollinger chief financial officer John Boultbee, executive vice president Peter Atkinson and general counsel Mark Kipnis. Ravelston, a Canadian holding company controlled by Black, also faces fraud charges.