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Conrad Black on trial

Globe and Mail Update

Conrad Black finally gets his day in court. The former press baron has vowed to vigorously defend his name against a variety of charges that he and three other former executives took more than $80-million (U.S.) from Hollinger International Inc.

It all plays out in a Chicago, Ill. courtroom, starting soon.

Mr. Black, whose newspaper empire once spanned three continents and included hundreds of titles, has vowed to regain control of what remains of his business empire.

The trial will have its share of drama. Mr. Black's former right-hand man, David Radler, has pleaded guilty to one charge and is expected to testify against the others, who have all pleaded not guilty.

Globe reporters Paul Waldie, Jacquie McNish and Sinclair Stewart of the Report on Business have spent countless hours covering this case since the allegations first surfaced in 2003.

The three reporters were online today to answer reader questions about Mr. Black and the legal battle of his storied career.

Your questions and their answers will appear at the bottom of this page when the discussion begins.

Ms. McNish and Mr. Stewart co-authored Wrong Way: The Fall of Conrad Black, which won Canada's National Business Book of the Year award in 2005.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question. Questions may be edited for length, clarity or relevance. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Sasha Nagy, Business Features Editor, writes: Thanks for joining us today to discuss the upcoming trial of Conrad Black.

There is no disputing that Mr. Black holds a unique position with the Canadian business establishment. How is this case being viewed in the United States, where the trial will unfold? Do you think he commands the same level of notoriety or stature in the U.S.? Without suggesting for a moment that Mr. Black might be guilty, it seems to me that Americans may lump this in with other notable cases like Enron and WorldCom, when in fact this case may be very different. Comments? Opinions?

Sinclair Stewart: I think if you just followed Conrad's plight through the lens of Canadian, or even British, media, you'd have a very distorted sense of his notoriety. Next to Martha, or Ken Lay at Enron, or even another Canadian, Bernie Ebbers, Conrad Black is a relative shadow-dweller. I think the fact that he was a media mogul probably engendered more press coverage than he would otherwise have received were he, say, an industrial executive-- just look at the attention he received in Australia, England, and even New York, particularly by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Post. That said, Hollinger was a tiny, closely held company compared with the likes of Enron or WorldCom -- this isn't a case of tens of thousands of employees losing their livelihoods and their pensions. As a result, there's much less hue and cry from ordinary Americans about the allegations the government has put forward--for the U.S. audience, I think it's more voyeurism than outrage.

Jacquie McNish: There is no question that the Conrad Black trial is a world apart from the WorldCom and Enron trials. But there is a link worth noting. The collapse of Enron and WorldCom unleashed a new era in shareholder activism and corporate governance that sparked the shareholder rebellion at Hollinger International and the ouster of Lord Black as the company's chief in 2003.

Sasha Nagy writes: In our "Who's Who feature on our special Conrad Black page, Paul Waldie wrote that prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald is considered "America's toughest prosecutor."

What can we expect to see from Mr. Fitzgerald? What can you tell us about what makes him so "tough."

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