'If Black goes to jail that's his problem'

By Dominic Ponsford

News that former Telegraph Group owner Conrad Black could be jailed
for 40 years on fraud charges was greeted with little sympathy by staff
at his papers.

One journalist told Press Gazette: “Who cares, if he goes to jail that’s his problem.”

Journalists
have little sympathy for Black because at the time he and other
executives are alleged to have taken $400 million from parent company
Hollinger International, staff were subjected to a pay freeze.

Black,
who bought the Telegraph in 1985, retired as Hollinger chief executive
in November 2003 pending an independent shareholder inquiry into his
activities. That was published eight months later and accused him of
running a “corporate kleptocracy”

which, over seven years, siphoned off $400 million, 95 per cent of the company’s profits.

Already
faced with numerous civil suits, Black has now been charged with fraud
for taking £30 million in payment for agreeing not to compete against
papers Hollinger had sold off.

Telegraph Group NUJ spokesman John Carey said: “I don’t think anyone is going to be desperately upset or indeed surprised.

“Years
ago, before anyone else was questioning Black’s activities, individual
journalists were asking questions about where the profits were going.

Why weren’t the same questions being asked by the then directors of Telegraph Group?

“We knew huge profits were being taken but there was no investment in the sort of things we needed.”

Jeremy
Deedes, former Telegraph Group managing director under Black, responded
to this by telling Press Gazette: “The Telegraph was a whollyowned
subsidiary of Hollinger and the profits that the Telegraph made simply
went back to the parent company in the US.

“What went on in the US was so far out of sight as to be invisible… the Telegraph remained squeaky clean throughout.”

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