Patrician British Journo Hails Black as 'Gatsby' Figure

26 March 2007

LONDON: Baron William Rees-Mogg of Hinton Blewitt (we jest not), the patrician former editor-in-chief of Britain's The Times and voice of Rupert Murdoch on earth, last week treated readers of that once-hallowed newspaper to a eulogy for Lord Conrad Black - the fallen ex-Canuck peer who stands accused of fraud and racketeering.

Comparing Black to F Scott Fitzgerald's tragic jazz-age hero The Great Gatsby, Rees-Mogg gushed: "They have the same energy, the same liking for hospitality, the same big romantic illusions, the same virtues and some of the same flaws."

Himself no mean wordsmith, Black was not to be outdone in the literary allusion stakes, responding: "Gatsby was an amiable charlatan who ended up being murdered in his own swimming pool. I accept the sentiment but not the analogy ... I will be back."

Meantime, in the less cerebral world of a Chicago courtroom, jurors heard that that Black and his co-defendants had allegedly diverted non-compete fees and other perks from the company's coffers.

This whistle had been blown on these illicit activities by Christopher H Browne, managing director of New York investment firm Tweedy Browne and a major shareholder in Black's Hollinger International newspaper fiefdom.

Black is charged with fraud, racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice, all of which carry prison sentences that in aggregate could total 101 years, plus millions in fines and $92 million (€69.16m; £46.86m) in possible forfeitures.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald / Reuters; additional content by WARC staff