Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Star Witness Says He and Black Were Joined at Hip

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Star Witness Says He and Black Were Joined at Hip

Article excerpt

On his first day of testimony as the prosecution's star witness in the federal criminal fraud trial of Conrad Black, his former trusted lieutenant David Radler told a federal jury in Chicago that he never made a move without the consent of the deposed press baron.

"I did not make a major financial decision without contacting Conrad Black," Radler said. "I have no recollection of selling a newspaper anywhere, at any time, without consulting Conrad Black.'

After eight weeks of trial, Conrad Black came face-to-face Monday with his one-time trusted lieutenant, now the star witness in the federal fraud case against him, former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler.

Radler strode into U.S. District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve's courtroom shortly before noon looking calm, wearing a blue suit, a red tie, and a white shirt that showed off his signature deep tan.

Black's lawyers in opening statements argued that it was Radler, not Black, who managed the many American and Canadian community newspapers that Hollinger International -- now known as Chicago Sun-Times Media Group -- sold off during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The defense claims Black had nothing to do with the crimes alleged by the federal government, which include improperly diverting phony non-compete payments to entities allowing Black and other key executives to pocket the cash.

But Radler testified that he and Black talked frequently about all aspects of the chain's business.

Radler also testified about their former friendship. Radler was in the wedding party when Black married the conservative columnist Barbara Amiel. Radler and his wife socialized and traveled with the Blacks, once vacationing together in Hawaii.

In his afternoon testimony, Radler laid out the history of the newspaper and holding company acquisitions made during that 1970s that would become the world-wide Hollinger International newspaper chain.

By 1985 or so, Radler testified, he, Black and minority partner Peter White came to a "meeting of the minds" and decided to concentrate on the newspaper industry.

"It was the one business we actually liked," Radler said. "The one business in which we would be able to add value. The one business we believed had a future was the newspaper business."

Radler was calm in the witness stand, often laughing at little glitches in the proceedings, and chuckling while answering the prosecutor's questions.

Radler got a taste of the vigorous cross-examination that awaits him in future days. Attorneys for all of the defendants objected to an illustrated chart that showed the stakes Radler and Black had in Hollinger International, and other corporate entities that ultimately controlled the newspapers.

Black's Canadian attorney, Edward Greenspan, tried but did not succeed in rattling Radler about some transactions.

Prosecutor Sussman's questions repeatedly returned to the theme of how involved Black was in the newspaper business.

For example, Radler testified that when it seemed the chain could not sell the trucking industry magazine American Trucker, Black lined up a potential buyer in Henry Kravis, a Hollinger board member. Hollinger had pulled the magazine off the market when it failed to attract more than $30 million, Radler said. Ultimately, in an auction, the Kravis group bought the publication for $76 million. The courtroom was packed when Radler strode in at about 11;45 a.m. …

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