‘Greed has been severely underestimated and denigrated – unfairly so in my opinion. I mean, there is nothing wrong with avarice as a motive, as long as it doesn’t lead to dishonest or anti-social conduct.”
Sorry, no prizes for guessing the source of this midEighties quote that even pre-dates the mantra of Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street. Conrad Moffat Black was, at the time, taking his first 14 per cent stake in Lord Hartwell’s Telegraph Group.
Within the blink of an eye he had such a grip on the company that, when the time came to move from Fleet Street, Hartwell wondered where his new office at Canary Wharf would be – only to be told, “Sorry, old boy, no room.”
This recent history of the Telegraph is a tale worthy of Evelyn Waugh. The lord of the manor invites his north American acquaintance over, only to find himself kicked out into the gatekeeper’s lodge and the new man installed not only in the stately home but the House of Lords to boot.
But now the uncovering of the Canadian’s unusual approach to accounting for the family silver – by a group of concerned villagers (well, shareholders) – is likely to catapult us into a new chapter. As Black’s fall from grace promises to be every bit as spectacular as that of previous old-school press barons, speculation turns to who might move in to the manor.
Will it be Dastardly Dick, the ruffian-done-good from the village massage parlour? Will the lord from the neighbouring Rothermere estate stroll over? Or do other American cousins have their eye on a British prize? Meanwhile, the servants, led by new head butler Martin Newland, try to keep all the fires in the house alight. Without having any say over which new master will eventually pay their wages.