The Business of the Blacks
The Appellate Division Courthouse on 25th and Madison. 7:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Only two years ago, they were the leading lights of the international set – he the Canadian publishing tycoon who owned the Telegraph of London, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, The Spectator (London) and a number of other newspapers that made him the third largest newspaper owner in the world after Gannett and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

He forsook his native Canadian citizenship to become a member of the House of Lords (as Lord Black of Crossharbour in 2001). And she, the four-times married journalist who wrote a political column (for the Telegraph) under the name Barbara Amiel, who once went to a costume party dressed as Marie Antoinette, and advertised herself in a Vogue interview with the remark: “I have an extravagance that knows no bounds,” her closets filled with the 100 pairs of Manolos and the 40 jewel-handled handbags and a large couture collection. There were so many clothes, according to Vogue, that “the overflow (had) to be kept downstairs off the gym.”

Conrad Black
Furthermore she had the past of a heroine in a novel — a brainy, sexy girl from a poor family whose father committed suicide when she was fifteen, who succeeded on her brains and her looks, she gained early notoriety as the first woman in Canada to appear on television wearing a bikini. One story, which she confirmed before she became Lady Black, claimed she once appeared in her Toronto newspaper office one day in an open raincoat, revealing beneath it only a black corset, garter belt, stockings and high heels. An editor recalled, "She once told me, 'If you want to get on, then you must learn to frighten men.’”

Whatever her tactics with men in power, when it came to Conrad Black she seemed to have varied, however. In 1986, she wrote about him: “I have always been intrigued by the manifestations of Conrad Black. He understands power." She too — as often happens to people who acquire what they imagine to be political or social power as a result of their newly acquired financial status, let it be known among lesser lights that she understood it also.

And so, it would seem, they should have, whatwith all the “power” around them .
Lord Black was a director of Sotheby's Holdings, Inc., Brascan Corporation, The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, CanWest Global Communications and The Jerusalem Post Limited and served on the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings and Chairman of the Editorial Board of the National Interest in Washington D.C. He was also a member of The Trilateral Commission, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Chairman's Council of the Americas Society, a trustee of the Malcolm Muggeridge Foundation, the Nixon Center and the Hudson Institute, and a director of the Centre for Policy Studies in London, a member of the International Advisory Board of The Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He was also a recipient of the Order of Canada. He holds a B.A. degree from Carleton University, an LL.L from Laval University, an M.A. from McGill University and honorary degrees from St. Francis Xavier University, McMaster University, the University of Windsor and Carleton University.

Lady Black and Lady Rothschild
They had known each other for years before they married. Black and his first wife were even guests at one of Amiel’s three previous weddings. When they met again in 1991 Black’s marriage to his first wife Joanne was breaking up (she left him for a preacher). They had a whirlwind courtship and celebrated their wedding at Annabel's nightclub in London , with the Duchess of York, David Frost and Margaret Thatcher among their guests.

Dividing their valuable time between a 10-bedroom townhouse in Kensington, a mansion in Palm Beach, an apartment on Park Avenue and their mansion in Toronto, transported in private jets, Rolls-Royces and waited on by staffs of servants, they entertained frequently and handsomely with stellar guest lists that thrilled even the jaded. Both intensely interested in global politics, both right-wing and pro-Israel, they were highly regarded even by those who did not share their politics.

They became the darlings of a small but wealthy circle which centers around such couples as Mercedes and Sid Bass, Bill and Pat Buckley, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Henry and Marie-Josee Kravis, Patty and Gustavo Cisneros, from whom it is often thought by power seekers that all ultimate New York social blessings flow.

It was a mutual admiration society,
albeit a labyrinthine one. And not without its insidious and predictably Balzacian backbiting and social competitions always leaving its share of occasional victims strewn supine on their brocaded chaises. But Lord and Lady Black, as competitive as the best of them, cemented some of those relationships by his appointing certain individuals to his company’s board including Henry Kissinger and Marie-Josee Kravis (also a Canadian, and also, like Barbara Black, highly regarded for her ambition, cleverness and brains).

Then came, seemingly from out of nowhere, but ironically out of the same gilded ether, Chris Browne, a very wealthy and highly successful mutual fund owner and manager who lives quite contentedly under that New York/London social radar, and who just happened to buy stock in Black’s company, Hollinger Inc. for plain and simple fundamental reasons: Hollinger looked like a good investment. "We concluded that the value of the assets was considerably greater than the value of the stock,” said Browne, “And Black in his shareholder letters sounded like a shareholder-friendly chief executive."

Black being a big share owner in the company was another plus in Browne’s thinking, logically concluding that Black’s interests and the shareholders' would be in alignment. However, after Browne’s analyst Laura Jereski, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, took a good look at the details of Hollinger’s sale of Canadian papers (for $2.l billion) in November 2000, to CanWest, Browne came to a new conclusion about Black’s alignment: "We were dead wrong,"

And the more they looked, the more questions they asked and the more they didn’t like the answers. The company coffers, it appeared, were supporting much of the Blacks’ billionaire-like life-style. More information revealed even more problems, like the fees Black and his management had taken from Hollinger. $26 million in 1997 — 6.26% of Hollinger's total earnings. $41 million in 2000, equal to 11.6% of Hollinger's earnings; and in 2001, after the Can West sale, they amounted to 69% of Hollinger's earnings. In contrast, at The New York Times, a far larger newspaper group, the management's "take" between 1997 and 2001 averaged about 6%.

Stonewalled by Black and Hollinger, Browne started legal action, demanding the return of $73 million that he said had been wrongly paid to directors. That suit was followed by another, claiming that since the mid-1990s, Hollinger's board had rubber-stamped $300 million in payments that rightly should have gone to shareholders.

And so it crumbled, the status and eminence of Lord Black and his brilliant wife who also profited handsomely through million dollar stock options and a fabulous salary from the Telegraph. Meanwhile, the independent board members such as Mrs. Kravis and Dr. Kissinger and Richard Perle, were taking the heat, being threatened with stockholder lawsuits, implying responsibility for their friend Lord Black’s personal financial activities.

And with those threats came the unthinkable: Mrs. Kravis and a number of lesser luminaries resigned from Hollinger’s board and the Blacks were dropped, like the veritable “hot potato.” No invitations, no phone calls returned. Finito. Cut dead. At least by the Americans. The Europeans are not so unforgiving and have a more laissez-faire attitude about corporate/ personal financial activities (at least those not specifically affected).

He had begun to look like, in the words of one who covered the story, a guy born on third who thinks he hit a triple. One could conclude that the seeds were planted in his first business misadventure: a scheme in which he sold stolen exam questions to students at his Prep school, Upper Canada College, which resulted in his expulsion in 1959, and which was dismissed by him as having “inconvenienced hundreds of unoffending people, students, and faculty.”

Now besieged by litigation, the former publishing giant, an unabashed admirer of Napoleon, is silent. His house in Palm Beach has a for sale sign on it, as does other real estate. It is said that he feels persecuted and is innocent of all charges, and that there is a solution which will free him of these burdens. A former lieutenant from years before, Henry Jackman, isn’t so sure. “Hitler in his bunker was moving around paper armies and talking about making a comeback.”

Barbara Black no longer has her column at the Telegraph. Some friends have voiced concern about her because she is said to be given at times to bouts of depression. Although she has written strong anti-Palestinian commentaries, she was recently seen lunching with the very bright and politically adept Princess Firyal of Jordan, a member of the international social set, the former wife of Prince Mohammad, brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan, and a Palestinian.

Lord Black, however, is also an established writer
and biographer. Perhaps that will rescue him from his fall from grace and loss of social lionesses. He has a new project in mind – a biography of another politician he admires greatly: Richard Nixon. In his own memoir, the publisher wrote, “for every ten men who can stand adversity, only one can stand success. In the end, only Richard Nixon, could, and did, defeat Richard Nixon.

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Christmas in Connecticut. Doug Cramer and Hugh Bush gave their annual holiday party on Saturday night at the Cramer estate in Litchfield County. And although not all of us celebrate Christmas, because Mr. Cramer is one the most successful producers of television series (The Love Boat, Dynasty, etc.) and movies, it’s impossible not to think in terms of movie titles for the kinds of parties he and Mr. Bush throw to entertain their friends.

Doug Cramer and Lee Radziwill
Leo Villareal and Yvonne Force
They came from far and wide and many from the surrounding area since so many smart (and even celebrated) New Yorkers have become weekend residents of this beautiful countryside. The Cramer farm is in the middle of the woods and not easy to find for us city slickers who don’t know the way, and especially in the dark of the night (we forget the country roads are not bordered by street lamps).

Sleighbells ring; are ya listenin’? .... Everyone was asked to bring an unwrapped toy. We were greeted at the door by Santa and everyone was encouraged to sit on his knee for a portrait (although I don’t know if anyone gave him a list). The house is big and rambling and full of some of Cramer’s extensive (and on-going) collection of contemporary art.

There was a jazz trio in the main living room, and a fire in the big stone fireplace. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks were served until about eight-thirty when we were told the buffet was waiting in the dining room. Virginia ham, Smithfield ham, turkey, carrot salad, potato salad, cheeses, salmon, meatballs, veggies, and caviar, and wines and champagnes and cocktails. It was very cozy with people sitting wherever they found a spot with others.

I saw Lynn Nesbit, Lee Radziwill who came up from the city with William Ivey Long, Dominick Dunne, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Berlind, the Schoenfelds, Pat and Gerry; Hiram Williams and Peter Vaughn, John Richardson, Brooke Hayward Duchin, Denise Hale, in from San Francisco and staying with Cramer and Bush for the weekend; Georgette Mosbacher who also made the two hour up and two hour back trip, Alex Hitz, Peter Rogers, Steven Sondheim, Yvonne Force and Leo Villareal, Graydon Carter and his fiancee Anna Scott; playwright Larry Kramer, Frank McCourt, Bobby Harling, Bette and Bill Weede, Sharon Hoge, Peter Wooster, Anne Sutherland Fuchs, Joan Rivers and Tommy Corcoran, George Grizzard, Francine duPlessix Gray, Todd Eberle, Bill Rondina and Giovanni LaFarlo.

And by ten-thirty, this being the country, guests, stuffed and sated were stepping back out into the chilly night of the half-moon, making their way down the dark and winding Connecticut country roads, ready for a good night’s sleep.
Bill Haseltine and Gale Hayman-Haseltine
Norman Sunshine, Anne Fuchs, George Grizzard, and Sharon Hoge
Brooke Duchin and Bill Weede
Brooke Duchin and John Richardson
William Ivey Long, Alex Hitz, and Hugh Bush
The jazz duo with a guest making requests
L. to r.: Todd Eberle at work and play; Joan Rivers; Cuddles and Bette Weede.
Bobby Harling
Gerry Schoenfeld
Peter Rogers and Nancy Novogrod
Mrs. and Mr. Roger Berlind
Peter Rogers and Bill Rondina
Graydon Carter with his fiancee Anna Scott
Robert Couturier, Jeffrey Morgan, and Lyn Nesbit
Steven Sondheim and William Ivey Long
Peter Wooster and Hiram Williams
Larry Kramer and William Ivey Long
Yvonne Force and Leo Villareal with little Leo
Two weeks ago Jack Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), long hailed as one of the most powerful individuals in both Hollywood and Washington, put his handprints and footprints in cement at the legendary forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and was saluted by a who’s who of industry notables, with Kirk Douglas speaking to the crowd about Valenti’s amazing legacy.

Jack Valenti and Michael Douglas
All seven major film studios served as hosts, with Peter Chernin (President and COO, News Corporation), Richard Cook (Chairman, Walt Disney Studios), Sherry Lansing (Chairman, Paramount Pictures), Michael Lynton (Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment), Barry Meyer (Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros Entertainment), Ron Meyer (President and COO, Universal Studios) and Alex Yemenidjian (Chairman and CEO, MGM) on hand.

Other notable guests included Michael Douglas, LA Mayor James Hahn (who declared December 6th "Jack Valenti Day" in Los Angeles), Red Buttons, Artist Jane Wooster Scott, Angie Dickinson, Quincy Jones and William Friedkin. Hollywood’s Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant served as Master of Ceremonies.

The Texas born, Harvard educated Valenti has led several lives: a wartime bomber pilot, advertising agency founder, political consultant, White House Special Assistant, movie industry leader. In 1955 he met the man who would have the largest impact on his life, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson.
Johnny Grant, Mayor James Hahn, Jack Valenti, Ron Meyer, Barry Meyer, Chris McGurk, Peter Chernin, and Sherry Lansing
Valenti’s agency was in charge of the press during the visit of President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson to Texas. Valenti was in the motorcade (six cars back of the President) in Dallas on November 22, 1963.Within an hour of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Valenti was aboard Air Force One flying back to Washington with the new President as the first newly hired Special Assistant to the President. On June 1, 1966, Valenti resigned his White House post to become the third man in the MPAA’s history (founded in 1922) to become its leader.

Valenti has written four books (three non-fiction): The Bitter Taste of Glory (World Publishing); A Very Human President (W.W. Norton Co.); Speak Up With Confidence (Wm. Morrow Co.), and the political novel, Protect and Defend (Doubleday). His most recent book is an updated revision of Speak Up With Confidence (2002, Hyperion). He has written extensively for America’s preeminent newspapers and magazines, and is one of the few public figures who actually writes his own speeches.
Jack Valenti with Studio Execs
Jean Firstenberg and Faye Kanin
Jack Valenti with his grandson and daughter
L. to r.: Dan Glickman, Jack Valenti, Peter Bart, Robert Dowling, and Peter Chernin; Kirk Douglas.

House & Garden's "Tastemakers"party to celebrate their January issue
Celerie Kemble
Isaac Mizrahi and Emma Jane Pilkington
Cynthia Frank and Mayer Rus
Joe Lagani and Dominique Browning
Alexandra Kimball and her husband

December 20, Volume IV, Number 198
Cramer photographs byDPC/


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