Conrad Black, the disgraced Canadian businessman who once headed one of the world's largest newspaper empires, was sentenced Monday to 78...

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CHICAGO — Conrad Black, the disgraced Canadian businessman who once headed one of the world’s largest newspaper empires, was sentenced Monday to 78 months in federal prison for stealing millions of dollars from his company.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve also ordered him to forfeit $6.1 million in ill-gotten profits and pay a $125,000 fine. He does, however, get to keep his Florida mansion, as well as the proceeds from the sale of his New York apartment.

Under federal law, defendants must serve a minimum of 85 percent of the prison sentence they receive. That means Black won’t be eligible for parole until 2012.

Four-month trial

In July, after a nearly four-month trial, a federal jury convicted Black and three other former executives of Hollinger International, the parent of the Chicago Sun-Times, of illegally receiving payments as part of the company’s sales of U.S. newspapers.

On the strength of a videotape that showed Black removing 13 boxes from his Toronto office in the middle of the government’s fraud probe, the jury also ruled that Black had impeded the investigation.

Prosecutors were seeking a jail term of between 19 and 25 years for Black, 63, which could have sent the former Hollinger chairman to prison for the remainder of his life.

However, Judge St. Eve, on Monday said federal guidelines suggested the range of jail time Black would face was 78 to 97 months — or between six and a half to eight years.

His lawyers had argued for a lenient sentence, even suggesting that Black should serve no more time than his former business partner, F. David Radler. As part of a guilty plea to one count of fraud, Radler agreed to a 29-month jail term in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution. He will be sentenced Dec. 17.

Radler, the former Hollinger president and ex-publisher of the Sun-Times, testified at trial that Black masterminded the scheme to loot Hollinger through bogus agreements not to compete with the new owners of its newspapers.

Some of these “noncompete” payments were not disclosed to shareholders or even Hollinger’s audit committee.

In the deals, Black, Radler and two other executives pocketed at least $32.2 million, evidence at the trial showed. But defense lawyers argued that noncompete payments are legitimate and customary in newspaper deals, a claim the jury appeared to find credible in some instances.

12 days of deliberations

The panel, after 12 days of deliberations, convicted Black of three counts of financial fraud but found him not guilty of racketeering and other more serious charges. The jury in its verdict found that Black had illegally taken a modest $2.9 million.

Black has emphatically asserted his innocence since he was indicted in 2005 and has maintained that defiant attitude since the end of the trial.

Prosecutors had urged the judge to give Black a harsher sentence for his lack of remorse.

Born to wealth in Montreal, Black parlayed a tidy investment in a group of community newspapers into a media empire with holdings in the U.S., Great Britain, Israel and Canada.

Prison will be a humbling experience for the man who once owned mansions in Toronto, New York, London and Palm Beach, Fla. Since his conviction, he has been living in Palm Beach, free on $21 million bail but unable to travel to Canada on judge’s orders.