Conrad Black to be Sentenced

CHICAGO (AP) –     Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black, convicted of swindling shareholders in his Hollinger International media empire out of millions of dollars, is now due to learn just how steep a price he must pay.

Black, 63, a Canadian-born member of the British House of Lords renowned for his lavish lifestyle and flamboyant way with words, was scheduled to be sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who presided over his four-month trial earlier this year.

Two other former Hollinger executives, both Canadians, and a Chicago lawyer who worked for the big media holding company were convicted along with Black and also were due to be sentenced Monday.

Federal prosecutors argue the silver-haired press lord, a talented biographer whose subjects include Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon, should be sent to federal prison for as long as 24 years.

Few if any of those close to the trial expect a sentence that stiff. But even half that time would be harsh, especially at Black's age.

While awaiting his sentence, Black has been prevented by court order from returning to Canada and required to remain either in the Chicago area or at his Florida estate. He has been free on $21 million bond.

A major point of dispute has been how to calculate the total loss to shareholders. Prosecutors put it at $32 million. But a pre-sentence report, prepared by the probation department, figured the loss at $6 million.

 The lower number could mean a shorter sentence for Black.

Scores of business executives, politicians and others have written to St. Eve, urging her to show mercy.

Black was convicted by a jury July 13 of three counts of mail fraud. He also was convicted of obstruction of justice for removing boxes of documents from his Toronto offices although he knew investigators wanted them.

Also convicted on the fraud counts were Jack Boultbee, 64, former Hollinger chief financial officer; Peter Atkinson, 60, former Hollinger executive vice president, and Mark Kipnis, former Hollinger corporate counsel.

In its heyday when Black was chairman and CEO, Hollinger International owned the Daily Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of U.S. and Canadian community newspapers.

Black, Atkinson and Boultbee were convicted of paying bonuses to themselves without board approval out of the proceeds from the sale of Hollinger-owned newspapers. The money allegedly was disguised as “non-compete payments” — payments made by the buyers to guarantee they would not face competition from the former owners.

Black was acquitted of nine other charges, including racketeering.