Earlier this week, a 65 year old man was released on bail from a low security prison in Florida. The event would not have been otherwise significant, had it not been for the identity of that man: Conrad Black, former owner of the paper now known as the Maily Telegraph, ennobled in 2001, and whose worldview has included stating with a straight face that the UK should leave the EU and join the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA).
Black, a supposedly still wealthy man, spent his first night out of jail in his former Palm Beach house, recently sold off at a knock down price in settlement of a debt. His assets are apparently in Canada, but his bail conditions prohibit his leaving the USA.
Despite this less than promising start, there has been much media froth generated already, not least by Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil, speaking to the Beeb yesterday evening, who said confidently that Black would be back, and looking for revenge. But, as the court case that saw him put in jail was in the US – and there are apparently many more lawsuits against him still outstanding there – it may be some time before he can credibly think of going after anyone in the UK.
And who would he be after? Well, as Roy Greenslade has noted in the Guardian, one target could be Tom Bower, who specialises in “unauthorised” biographies of public figures, and who has written one about Black. But here a note of caution might enter: the last one to sue Bower, Richard Desmond, came badly unstuck in the courtroom and lost. Better perhaps to follow the example of Richard Branson, who clearly disliked Bower’s biog, but said his piece and declined to take matters further.
In any case, Black is now yesterday’s man. The fact of his new status may not immediately register with him or those who, for whatever reason, idolise him. But, as the song goes, that’s just the way it is.
He would be best advised just to leave the stage.