Globe and Mail
Black slaps author with $11-million libel suit
Claims biography portrayed Lady Black as 'hectoring, slatternly ... and a harridan'
February 20, 2007
PAUL WALDIE AND PATRICIA BEST
Conrad Black has hit British author Tom Bower with a libel suit in Canada that alleges the writer's conduct has been “vindictive, high-handed, contemptuous, sadistic, pathologically mendacious and malicious.”
Lord Black is seeking $11-million in damages and alleges Mr. Bower's 436-page book — Conrad & Lady Black Dancing on the Edge — portrays him as “evil and devoid of any redeeming or even mitigating qualities.”
He also alleges in his statement of claim that Mr. Bower's book depicts his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, as “grasping, hectoring, slatternly, extravagant, shrill and a harridan.”
The book has brought Lord Black “into hatred, ridicule and contempt and [he] has suffered damage,” alleges the 43-page lawsuit, filed last week in a Toronto court.
Lord Black has been complaining about Mr. Bower's book ever since it was released last September in Canada, Britain and the United States (where it is titled Outrageous Fortune: The Rise and Ruin of Conrad and Lady Black).
In an article in London's Sunday Telegraph last October, Lord Black wrote that Mr. Bower's “key-hole, smut-mongering side-piece portrayal of my wife as a man-eating sex maniac prior to her marriage to me is disgusting.”
Last week, Lord Black told The Globe and Mail that he planned to file “the mother of all libel statements of claim” against Mr. Bower.
Mr. Bower, who is based in London, has written several controversial biographies, including two books on British newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991. In an e-mail to The Globe, Mr. Bower said he was not worried about Lord Black's legal action. “Robert Maxwell sued me many times and look what happened to him,” he wrote.
Lord Black shot back in an e-mail: “I'm not concerned with his reaction; he's gambling on a verdict in Chicago that is almost impossible to be obtained... I'm looking forward to his interrogation under oath.”
Lord Black goes on trial next month in Chicago over allegations that he and three other former executives of Hollinger International Inc. took more than $80-million (U.S.) from the Chicago-based newspaper company. Lord Black and the others have pleaded not guilty and none of the allegations have been proved.
In his lawsuit against Mr. Bower, Lord Black cites more than 50 examples of alleged inaccuracies and defamatory statements in the book. For example, he alleges Mr. Bower falsely describes him as “a religious hypocrite or crank who delusionally imagines conversations with God in which he believes he receives reassurances about the divine acceptability of illegal and immoral actions.”
Lord Black also refers to references to his father, George Montegu, who Mr. Bower allegedly depicts as someone who suffered hangovers at work and drank himself into a stupor. In the suit, Lord Black calls the references “cowardly slurs.”
He also derides Mr. Bower's description of Lady Black as “a Nazi apologist” who screams at people and is “barbarously rude to domestic staff.”
“She is falsely accused of flying to London to have lunch with former U.S. president [George H. W.] Bush and generally of being a domineering, vulgar, obsessively materialistic and altogether repulsive personality,” the suit alleges.
Lord Black claims Mr. Bower “concocted a pre-conceived thesis that [Lord Black] is a criminal sociopath who, throughout his whole business career sought to enrich himself, in breach of the law, at the expense of his shareholders. [Lord Black], who has been regarded as one of the world's most distinguished and successful newspaper publishers and respected financier, writer and historian, in recognition of which he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Privy Councillor of Canada, a life Baron of the United Kingdom and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Holy See); is represented by [Mr. Bower] as having been incorrigibly and notoriously corrupt and dishonest, psychiatrically maladjusted, unrelievedly odious, in fact evil and devoid of any redeeming or even mitigating qualities.”
The suit also names Harper & Collins Books of Canada Ltd., which published the book in Canada. Officials at the publisher were unavailable for comment.