Wednesday 31 August 2011

Conrad Black hits out at Murdoch 'price war myth'

Former Daily Telegraph-owner Conrad Black has blamed Rupert Murdoch for claims that he had to steal money because of the price war when News International slashed the price of The Times.

In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair's Bryan Burrough about his time in Coleman Federal Prison, Black says: “The myth is that the price war put so much pressure on our profits that I was forced to steal money to maintain my opulent lifestyle. It’s part of the whole News Corp. mythmaking apparatus.

“It was Rupert, you know. He originated that one. He certainly parroted it. Rupert always says reasonably nice things about me, but then he throws in something like that for effect. I don’t really blame Rupert. He’s not a non-friend. Rupert is just Darwinian.”

Black also weighs in on Rupert Murdoch’s current troubles: “It has been for decades a rigorously micro-managed company and Rupert Murdoch has created and flaunted an attitude of unlimited right to intrude on, harass, and, to the limit that may be legally feasible, defame people whom he or his editors target,” he says.

“The News Corp. company ethos is one of lawlessness and unrestrained liberty self-righteously to do what it wants, inflated by notions of decisive political influence. I doubt if he personally ordered telephone or Internet intercepts on individuals, but he must have known that some of his employees did them routinely, going back, at the latest, to some of the famous cell-phone conversations of the Prince of Wales.

"Murdoch deserves all the credit for building so powerful a company that most of its institutional self-confidence was justified, and most of the discredit for the sleazy way he operated it. I would add that I was more offended by the cowardice and hypocrisy of those in the British establishment who licked his boots—not to mention other places—for decades, and now swaddle themselves in shock sanctimony, than I was by the offensive activities.”

Black tells Burrough about his experience in jail at Coleman Federal Correction Complex where he served for over two years after being convicted of fraud and where he is likely to return in September.

“I quickly developed alliances with the Mafia people,” Black says, “then the Cubans. I was friendly with the ‘good ol’ boys’ and the African-Americans. They all understood I had fought the system, and I do believe I earned their respect for that."

He recalls the welcome he received from a senior member of the Genovese crime family: “No one will bother you here. If you catch a cold, we will find out who you got it from. You know, we have much in common .… We are industrialists.”

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