Black's Homes Go Up for Sale As Perle Bites Hand That Fed Him

12 January 2004

"Save us from our friends," as the beleaguered Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour might ruefully reflect while pondering the old English proverb.

Especially friends like Richard Perle, fellow-director of Hollinger International, eminence-gris to President George W Bush and erstwhile chairman of the US Defense Policy Board.

Perle, a longtime confidante of the newspaper baron, severed the now inconvenient bond of friendship with Black during an interview with the eponymous host of Charlie Rose, an influential nightly current affairs radio program.

Quizzed about Hollinger, Perle (still an independent director of the company) opined: "It's a great tragedy that it has come to this. Hollinger probably should have exercised more restraint than it did and should have been responsive to the misgivings of shareholders earlier."

But Perle's attempt to distance himself from Hollinger's boardroom actions [or inactions] cut no ice with the company's critics. Especially Black's nemesis, the New York investment group and 18% shareholder in Hollinger, Tweedy Browne.

Perle's comments were "a deft way to pass off the responsibility for one's own actions by hiding behind a corporation," said Tweedy analyst Laura Jereski.

She pointed out that Perle was among the directors who received a letter from Tweedy in October 2001 complaining about the company's behaviour. "These guys have been dodging responsibility since we first wrote to them," Jereski accused.

And as Canadian daily the National Post observed: "Some company observers found it startling that Mr Perle would blast the conduct of a company on whose board he sat, and from which he appears to have derived personal benefit.

The newspaper cites a recent regulatory filing by Hollinger in which it revealed it had invested $2.5 million (€1.96m; £1.36m) in Trireme LP, a venture-capital fund partly owned by Perle.

The filing notes that fellow Hollinger directors Lord Black and Henry Kissinger are also members of Trireme LP's "strategic advisory board". Perle was also the recipient of an undisclosed salary for unspecified work done at Hollinger International's digital unit.

As British politician Jeremy Thorpe observed when UK prime minister Harold Macmillan fired seven of his cabinet ministers in 1962: "Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his friends for his life."

• Separately, Rupert Mudoch's London voice The Times last week reported with ill-disguised glee that as pressure mounts on Black's personal finances he has put his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion on the market for $36 million. Prospective buyers have also been viewing his $26m home in London's ritzy Kensington district.

Data sourced from: National Post (Canada) and Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff