Were They Partners in Crime? Radler Says Black Part of Hollinger Financial Deals

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Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Prosecutors worked hard Monday to paint a picture of Conrad Black and his second in command, David Radler, as a couple of ambitious entrepreneurs who met in their mid-20s, took personal trips together, attended each other's marriages and often drove long distances together to buy remote community newspapers - a journey that would result in one of the world's largest newspaper chains.

Black would become chairman and Radler president and chief operating officer of their media empire.

"I did not make any major financial decision without consulting Conrad Black," Radler testified Monday in Black's trial.

The wispy-haired Radler rarely looked toward the defense table of his one-time friend and longtime business partner.

The Canadian-born Black, 62, and several co-defendants who face lesser charges are accused of stealing $60 million from Hollinger International Inc., now a smaller company known as the Sun-Times Media Group.

Black is charged with racketeering, fraud, money-laundering and obstruction of justice. A member of Britain's House of Lords, he could get 101 years in prison and faces millions in fines and $92 million in forfeitures if convicted. He is accused of pocketing money that should have gone back into the business entities that owned the Chicago Sun-Times, The Courier in Elgin and Jerusalem Post, among other newspapers.

Radler, 64, is the star witness, having flipped on Black in return for a lenient 29 months in prison and more than $8 million in fines and penalties.

"Did you plead guilty to a scheme to steal money from Hollinger shareholders?" lead prosecutor Eric Sussman asked Radler.

"Yes, I did ... I plead guilty to fraud. I plead guilty to taking money from Hollinger International under illegal circumstances," Radler replied.

As early as today, Black's lawyers will attempt to depict Radler as a liar and an admitted felon who would sell out his best friend to keep himself out of jail for what he did without Black's knowledge.

Black and Radler were also principal owners of Ravelston Corp. Inc., a privately held Canadian holding company that exercised control over Hollinger International. …