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A Matter of Principle [Hardcover]

Conrad Black
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 31 2011
"I never ask for mercy and seek no one's sympathy. I would never, as was once needlessly feared in this court, be a fugitive from justice in this country, only a seeker of it."
—Conrad Black, in his statement to the court, June 24, 2011

In 1993, Conrad Black was the proprietor of London's Daily Telegraph and the head of one of the world's largest newspaper groups. He completed a memoir in 1992, A Life in Progress, and "great prospects beckoned." In 2004, he was fired as chairman of Hollinger International after he and his associates were accused of fraud. Here, for the first time, Black describes his indictment, four-month trial in Chicago, partial conviction, imprisonment, and largely successful appeal.

In this unflinchingly revealing and superbly written memoir, Black writes without reserve about the prosecutors who mounted a campaign to destroy him and the journalists who presumed he was guilty. Fascinating people fill these pages, from prime ministers and presidents to the social, legal, and media elite, among them: Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Jean Chrétien, Rupert Murdoch, Izzy Asper, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, Eddie Greenspan, Alan Dershowitz, and Henry Kissinger.

Woven throughout are Black's views on big themes: politics, corporate governance, and the U.S. justice system. He is candid about highly personal subjects, including his friendships - with those who have supported and those who have betrayed him - his Roman Catholic faith, and his marriage to Barbara Amiel. And he writes about his complex relations with Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, and in particular the blow he has suffered at the hands of that nation.

In this extraordinary book, Black maintains his innocence and recounts what he describes as "the fight of and for my life." A Matter of Principle is a riveting memoir and a scathing account of a flawed justice system.

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A Matter of Principle + Tilted: The Trials of Conrad Black, Second Edition + Flight of the Eagle
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"...Authorative and highly readable...."
—Andrew Roberts, The Daily Beast
"An enthralling work."
"Beautifully chronicled."
—Ottawa Citizen
"A gripping account."
Evening Standard

About the Author

Conrad Black is the author of critically acclaimed biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. The former head of the Argus and Hollinger corporate groups and of London's Telegraph newspapers, Black is also the founder of Canada's National Post. For some years he has been a columnist there and at the National Review Online (New York). Black has been a member of the British House of Lords since 2001.

In 2005, Black was accused of a total of 17 charges of criminal corporate misconduct in the United States, and prosecutors sought life imprisonment and fines and restitution totalling $140 million. After six years, all the charges were either abandoned, rejected by jurors, or in the case of four convictions, vacated unanimously by the United States Supreme Court. On the original convictions, he was sentenced to imprisonment for 78 months and restitution of $6.1 million. After 29 months in federal prison, he was released on bail, but the appellate panel whose findings had been vacated by the high court restored two counts when the case was remanded back to it. On June 24, 2011, Black was resentenced to a further seven and a half months in prison, which he is serving at time of publication, and 90 per cent of his fine was restored to him. Conrad Black has never ceased to assert his innocence.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell hath no fury like ... Sept. 26 2011
Exceptionally candid and wonderfully written - Conrad Black has exposed himself and his travails for the world to see. Like the subjects of his two third person biographies - Richard M. Nixon and Franklin Delano Roosevelt - this exceptional author offers a compelling tale (make of it, and his claims of innocence, what you will) of the extraordinary growth of what may be one of the last sizable newspaper groups, and his (and its) undoing. For those interested in business-related books, this one is a 'page-turner' on the scale of Barbarians at the Gate; for those interested in 'how to succeed in growing an empire using as little equity as possible', this is a tale that highlights both what is possible and the limitations forced upon those whose ambitions are not matched by a sustainable capital structure; and for those who believe that nothing is as important as 'good governance', this appears to be an object lesson of what can happen to the underlying business when a board allow 'form' to trump business substance - particularly in an industry undergoing existential threats. Mr. Black, even with his conviction, has shaken off the cloak of 'charlatan' that his accusers and adversaries, the popular press and gossip hounds have spent the past 7 (and more) years attempting to put about his shoulders. A singularly good read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Down but never out Oct. 6 2011
Conrad Black's latest book 'A Matter of Principle' is a fascinating read. The reader has to wade through the hundreds of characters involved in his persecution but the narrative is riveting. Not many people could keep going under such pressure from the forces of corporate and state evil but Mr. Black has you on his side as he explains the spider's web that was wrapped around him in an effort to separate him from his company. He admits that his personality has caused many of his problems but he never was guilty of criminal intent in any of it. He is to be admired for his ability to run companies, suffer legal prosecution, and personal humiliation and still write these wonderful books. I have read most of them.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The book is well written and this is no news for people who read anything Black wrote. It is about seven years of personal hell that followed his mistake of allowing to form "Spitzer-zeitgeist" inspired special governance committee in Hollinger International, his successful public US corporation in the newspaper business.

It is a must read for any executive operating in US especially if she is not a US citizen. Canadian executives will learn a lot about the internal mechanics of their own legal system and securities regulators and very sensitive and complicated relationships they have with their US counterparts. Every executive will also learn about the realities of working with hyper-expensive lawyers (Brendan Sullivan, Eddie Greenspan) who frequently value their egos, pockets and good relations with other lawyers and judges much more than their own clients' good (clients are treated as "bloody nuisance" by some of these guys per Black).

Black is not only a good writer. He has a strong analytical mind coupled with academic training in history and law and vast business experience. Prior to systematic destruction by "governance" zealots and their greedy collaborators described in the book, Hollinger and related companies were a world class success that allowed Black to maintain close business and personal relationship with ruling (and ex-ruling) elites such as Kissinger, British lords, Pearle etc. His portraits of these people and their ways are perceptive and highly educational.

The last chapter alone is worth the price of the book even if the reader has no interest in Black as a person.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just finished Conrad Black's book. It's 5am in the morning. If you are dealing with the courts, if you are dealing with prosecutors with their own agendas, if you are dealing with high fee charging lawyers, if you see innocent people being abused, then read this book. Reading it gives you strength to deal with the system. And his final address to the judge, in the final pages of the book will make you want to stand up applaud.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perry Mason is dead Oct. 31 2011
By Ed B
In the boardroom battles and the courtroom trials, Conrad Black sat across from some very dangerous and destructive people. But the next most dangerous people (and only by a tiny amount) were the lawyers sitting by his side. Black is pretty candid about the difficulties and the outrageous cost of dealing with legal firms and individual lawyers, who are part (along with the judges and prosecutors) of what he terms "a medieval guild". Time after time in reading this book the words of the Al Stewart song "License to Steal" came to mind:

'He's taking from them, he's taking from you
Lawyers love money, anybody's will do'

Only at the very end of this saga, when Black appeals his convictions to the Supreme Court of the United States, does he seem to find competent counsel who are interested in doing the best for their client, rather than grandstanding for the enhancement of their reputations.

In addition to a very detailed accounting of the legal issues surrounding his situation, Black takes some time to comment on the very damaging effect of the unrestrained prosecutorial system in the U.S. He draws on his experience in prison to make some very trenchant comments on where the U.S. is headed under this regime.

It would be untrue to say this book is an easy read: the issues and personalities are complex and the story long and complicated. But the reward is great. It is very uplifting how Conrad Black has persevered in the face of attempts to destroy him that are partly ideological, partly pure greed, and partly personal animus. Reading this book, you see the strong and affectionate bond between Conrad Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, and with the rest of his family.

And you will see clearly how the U.S. is well on the road to becoming a cruel and twisted state, with the fundamental rights emplaced by the Founding Fathers viciously flouted and ignored by the judicial system.
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