|The Infants Christ and St. John the Baptist Embracing (detail)|
The Art Institute of Chicago
I’m writing this column on an Apple iMac. Not the latest model — it’s from 2012. Quite old, actually — but a good size, 21.5 inch screen, and reliable.
Fifty bucks and it’s yours.
No? How about $25?
Kidding. There are two problems with my selling this iMac. First, I need it to write the rest of today’s column. And second, the computer’s not mine: it belongs to the Chicago Sun-Times. So if I did sell it, contrary to the company’s best interests, the money wouldn’t belong to me, but to them.
That, in a nutshell, if you puff away the bombast and legalese, not to mention the confusing miasma of conviction and acquittal, appeal and reversal, is the essence of the misdeeds of Conrad Black, former master of Hollinger International, a chain of newspapers that included this one. Crimes Lord Black was pardoned of on Wednesday by his friend and fellow fraud, President Donald Trump.
Black and his underling David Radler sold off pieces of Hollinger as if they and not the stockholders owned the place. They sold publications and skimmed off cash for themselves, arguing this was OK because the embezzlement was cast in the form of “noncompete” clauses, promises not to undercut the business of the new owners.
To return to our opening scenario, it’s as if I sold you this iMac for $50, passing $25 to the paper and keeping $25 for myself as payment for promising not to hurt your ability to profit from writing stuff on it.
“We believe the verdict vindicates the serious public interest in making sure that when insiders in a corporation deal with money entrusted to the shareholders, that they’re not engaged in self-dealing,” Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois at the time, said after the convictions.
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