Who’s the boss?

A sampling of Conrad Black's unorthodox views.

Former press baron Conrad Black held unorthodox views on how to manage relations with minority shareholders of companies he controlled. Here is a sampling, gleaned from documents produced during the ongoing U.S.A. v. Black et al. trial in Chicago, which entered its 12th week on June 4.

On balancing the interests of all shareholders: “These companies have always been run in the Argus tradition of proprietary businesses where the controlling shareholders take reasonable steps to ensure their comfortable enjoyment of the position they have created for themselves. Care must be taken not to allow this to degenerate into decadence, as it did in the old Argus. But nor should awe allow the agitations of shareholders, amplified by…colleagues discountenanced at the performance of their stock options, to force us into a hair shirt, the corporate equivalent of sackcloth and ashes.”

On the rights of controlling shareholders: “We have a certain style that all these shareholders were well aware of when they came in. We should fine-tune that style, not revolutionize it with a Damascene conversion to vows of poverty.”

On the challenges of being CEO: “I'm getting a little tired of the shareholders. They have nothing to complain about…They should be a little more respectful.”

On a 2002 letter from analyst Laura Jereski of major shareholder Tweedy Browne, questioning various aspects of Hollinger International's corporate governance: “Laura's letter is nonsense but obviously a number of shareholders are holding hands on this and I accept that the initial appearances are not optimal….Much as I would like to just blow their asses off, I don't want a sour atmosphere at the shareholders' meeting.”

On the motives of disgruntled Hollinger shareholders: “The complaints are magnified for ulterior reasons and the real grievance of our questioners is that they know we are not under any real pressure to take them out, either by going private or selling the business.”

On Hollinger International's turbulent 2002 AGM: “I thought the annual meeting went fairly well. There was no threat of litigation, the usual recourse in this country…”

On the war with shareholders: “It's a beginning. We fight on. I have just come from dinner with Bill Buckley and when I repeated to him a few lines from God and Man at Yale and Up From Liberalism, his first book which I read 45 years ago, we had a virtual revival meeting. ‘We will fight on the beaches and in the hills,' etc. and ‘We are not far from receiving the unconditional surrender of our enemies.'”

On longtime business partner David Radler's attitude toward shareholders: “He is suspicious of alternatives for the [corporate] planes and launches into angry mantras against the shareholders at the drop of a hat. He sees them as conspirators trying to take the fun out of business…David has always put out of mind the implications of being a public company.”

On why Donald Trump should attend Hollinger's 2003 AGM: “Some of the institutions have been conducting an insurrection…they have undoubtedly tried to pack the room with complainants…if you were able to put in a cameo appearance and say a supportive word, I'm sure it would have an impact on the group and be favorably noted in the press.”