Trials & Litigation

Conrad Black Released on Bond After Some $40M in Legal Bills; How Much More Can He Afford to Pay?

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Freed today from a federal prison in Florida, onetime media mogul Conrad Black is seemingly potentially on track for a possible reversal of his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions.

But a major roadblock remains: His legal fees. An estimated $40 million in defense costs for Black have been covered by the policy of directors and officers insurance for Hollinger International since 2003. The policy was terminated when the company went bankrupt, however, and now Black is on his own in litigation that may test the extent of his wealth, reports the Globe and Mail, relying on unidentified sourcing.

The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of his conviction could cost Black—who also faces civil suits and securities and tax issues—some $1 million, the newspaper estimates. His tax liability could potentially exceed $70 million.

Black’s lawyers have said little to reporters, but a friend and fellow former Hollinger executive told Bloomberg this week that Black’s coffers haven’t yet been emptied.

“He’s still a wealthy man but his wealth will be affected by the outcome of outstanding lawsuits against him,” says Peter White of Black.

Freed today on $2 million bond after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on so-called honest services fraud in another ex-executive’s case put his criminal conviction in question, Black is due in federal court in Chicago on Friday. At that point, other conditions of his bond will be determined, the Los Angeles Times reported.

For the moment, at least, he is restricted to the continental United States, although his wife lives in Canada and the Canadian-born Black himself is a British peer.

Now 65, Black is likely out of prison for good, a Chicago lawyer who has been watching the case predicts to Reuters.

“One of the elements of being entitled to bail on appeal is that you’re likely to win,” says attorney Hugh Totten. So the federal court, he says, didn’t release Black expecting him to do more time. So far, Black has served about two years of a 78-month sentence.

Meanwhile, Black has been working on a book, The Fight of My Life, which could be published this fall, the Globe and Mail reports.

“There’s a final chapter to be written and we want to make sure we publish when he and his lawyers are comfortable,” says publisher Douglas Pepper of McClelland and Stewart Ltd.

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