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Outrageous Fortune: The Rise and Ruin of Conrad and Lady Black Hardcover – Nov 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 436 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061146145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061146145
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,297,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Bower has a distinguished reputation as an investigative historian, broadcaster and journalist and is the author of several ground-breaking books about tycoons. His most recent works are 'Branson' and 'Gordon Brown: Prime Minister'. His books about the Nazis include 'Blood Money' and the definitive biography of Klaus Barbie. Among his other much-debated biographies are those of Mohammed Fayed, Richard Branson and Robert Maxwell.

Product Description

HardCover Pub Date: November 2006 Pages: 448 in Publisher: Harper The rise and fall of media tycoon Conrad Black and his journalist wife Barbara Amiel is one of the great stories of the modern business world In Outrageous Fortune London- based journalist Tom Bower reveals how Conrad and Lady Black used other people's money to finance a billionaire's lifestyle. winning friends and influence in London and New York along the way. Their story of overweening ambition and greed is a modern-day classic of huis. Born into considerable wealth in Canada. Conrad Black bought and sold (but never effectively managed) several businesses. from mining and tractors to oadcasting companies and newspapers. In 1985 Black's holding ...

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Griff Griffith on 2 Aug 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't read the book yet (it only arrived today) but I thought it's worth alerting any potential readers who fall for the "buy this book with 'Dancing on the Edge'" offer from Amazon that it is the American edition of the same book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kelkoozee on 30 Nov 2009
Format: Hardcover
I disagree with the one star reviewer who complained because this is a new edition. That doesn't make it a bad book does it? I really enjoyed the book myself and I'm giving it full marks. It's by my favourite celebrity biographer (Tom Bower) and he packs in a lot of research and still makes it very readable in most parts. The financial stuff about corporate structures was confusing for a non-professional but all the rest was easy to read and as all good biographies do this made me feel I was seeing the real Conrad and Lady Black. It was damning and showed them up in several places but still at the end of the day they were shown as human beings, flawed but real. I like biographies and glimpsing into people's worlds and this was an interesting world to glimpse into. Full marks to Tom!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A rip-snorter - but needlessly and counterproductively brutal 22 Dec 2006
By Olly Buxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Now that the levee has broken, you would have to go a long way to garner sympathy for a couple with the hubris of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, but in his splendidly vituperative "Outrageous Fortune", Tom Bower almost pulls it off. This is a real piece of work (though, as Bower might say, if the shoe fits...) and no effort has been made to present any sort of balance whatsoever: Even the title is snide: Not "Conrad and Barbara Black", nor "Lord and Lady Black", but "Conrad and *Lady* Black" - a snipe at her overweening delight at ennoblement, and perhaps a cute reference to Black's habit of referring to his wife (from well before his peerage) as "the Little Lady".

Make no mistake, this is a rip-snorter of a read: I've been devouring pages, missing stops on the tube, walking into lamp-posts and zoning out of conference calls on its account: it is the Barbarians at the Gate of the new Millennium - tempered only by the fact that its characters seem transparently unleavened by the financial expertise, corporate understanding, commercial cunning, capitalist audacity and iron balls of the KKR crowd: these protagonists, as Bower paints them, are as self-absorbed, self-aggrandising and self-enriching as the best of them, whilst still being deluded and dim-witted schmucks.

Which is rather suspect in itself. If you accept that view then it is truly remarkable that the Blacks lasted as long as they did at the top of the pile. Bower does not dispute that Conrad Black attracted - and retained for decades - some high-quality help: Lord Carrington proposed his ennoblement and Baroness Thatcher seconded it (despite Bower's assertion that she found Black "ordinary"); Henry Kissinger sat on Hollinger's board even until the endgame played out (as did Richard Perle and KKR founder Henry Kravis' wife). So either Conrad Black was an extraordinary con-artist, or Bower is not giving credit where it is due.

Nor is much credence given to Conrad Black's intellect or Amiel's journalistic prowess: Bower would have you believe that Black simply has a large vocabulary, a photographic memory and a penchant for gormlessly reciting details of naval battles at dinner parties, and suddenly took a couple of months to dash off a rangy biography of Roosevelt, which did nothing but illustrate his own shoddy scholarship. Now I haven't read this book (and nor, at 1245 pages, am I planning to), but the critical reaction to it on this site - which I have a healthy respect for - has been almost unanimously positive. Again, you get the sense that credit might not have been given where due.

Finally, the book is studded with of startling exchanges which are set out as direct quotations - in situations where it is difficult to believe that the remarks could have possibly been recorded nor word-for-word remembered: Amiel's off-the-cuff remarks during dinner parties and to household staff and Black's asides to his co-directors during meetings and on the telephone over a twenty five year period are faithfully reproduced as if from a stenographer's notebook. I can't help thinking Bower is talking a biographer's licence here - that's a polite way of saying he made these quotes up - perhaps on the basis of a vaguer recollection like "then Conrad said something rude" or some such thing.

Tom Bower has certainly done some homework and tracks the financial shenanigans skilfully, and I doubt there will be much sympathy out there amongst the schadenfreude for the misfortune of an unpleasant couple who are in the process of getting what has been coming to them, but all the same this relentlessly brutal entry can't help but remind us that this celebrated president's biogrpaher isn't the one writing this part of the last century's history.

Olly Buxton
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating account of a fascinating duo 11 Dec 2006
By Sergio Negrete Cardenas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Apparently only a miracle will stop Lord Black from missing his billionaire lifestyle from a prison cell. Tom Bower's account is gripping. The subjects of his attention, Lord and Lady Black, certainly are much more interesting that the average pair accused of siphoning millions from unsuspecting shareholders. Bower credibly builds the portrait of two people that feel that the law should not apply to the ostensibly rich. Notably, the intellectual pretenses of Lady Black are effectively drowned in the repeated demonstration that, as she said, her extravagance knew no bounds.

Bower's examination of the various facets of Lord Black is solid. The multiple quotes from his subject denying at all times any wrongdoing, always in elegant terms, confirm the picture of a man that considered himself a mix of intellectual giant and paragon of rapacious capitalism at its best (or worst). Apparently those that were silly enough to entrust their money to him fully deserved the systematic pillage that Lord Black and his associates applied to the companies under their management. The record of how Lord Black used people with solid reputations to get seals of approval for his shenanigans should send shudders down the spines of those that think that seating at a Board of Directors is a good opportunity to get some money and a good lunch while, at most, giving a glimpse at the reports and requests from the company's management before signing their endorsement.

The timing of Bower's work is superb considering that Lord Black will face trial soon. After finishing it, the reader is ready to follow the saga to what will most probably be a fitting conclusion.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book About Greedster Duo 14 Jan 2007
By Charles J. Rector - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Conrad Black was originally a fairly decent man who lived fairly modestly by billionaire standards. Then, he was seduced by one Barbara Amiel who persuaded him to divorce his first wife and marry her in the bargain. Once married, the new Lady Black went about raising the couple's living standards to absurdly lavish heights.

All this luxurious excess cost a ton of money. So, Black set about looting the publicly held company in which he held the controlling votes. He installed a compliant board of directors, slashed expenses and either fired or sued anyone who objected.

However, all this corruption eventually attracted the attention of both investigative reporters and law enforcement. For all of Lord Black's power, he was ultimately unable to prevent his demise. He has been ousted from the ownership of his company and is on the verge of standing on criminal trial in his native Canada.

This is an excellent book about how greed and avarice often leads to one's own demise.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Totally Defamatory 7 Mar 2013
By John - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The author seemed to have his own interpretation of the facts and events which were defamatory in extreme and is now facing a
law suit for his efforts.
CONRAD AND LADY BLACK AND THE PILLAGING OF DEMOCRACY 13 Oct 2013
By Hansen Alexander - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Make no mistake about it, Western man's long march since the Renaissance to obtain economic and social security has been destroyed in the 21rst century by the economic assault on elected government officials and populations by the social climbing rich as they bribed their way to power, escaped paying taxes in off shore havens, and attacked the social safety net of ordinary people at every turn. Tom Bower has portrayed one of those bandits, Canadian newspaper publisher Conrad Black, in his book, "Outrageous Fortune, The Rise and Ruin of Conrad and Lady Black."

The wealthy son of a Canadian corporate official, Conrad Black grew up watching his father's business associates use company property for their personal use, comingle assets between various holdings, and generally act like pirates in misusing what they owned at the expense of shareholders. Black refined these crimes into high art, as he bought struggling newspapers, Dominion Stores, and Massey-Ferguson on the cheap, put their staffs out of work, and funneled the company's funds into his personal bank accounts. Black's favorite method was raiding company pension funds. You could say he was a precursor to Enron. When you are pirating, however, involves newspapers it is hard to hide these antics from journalists and Black's dirty deeds fooled few in Canada. Outraged at being found out, Black soon escaped to London, leaving behind his Canadian companies to be managed by his sidekick David Radler whose speciality was stripping their assets, and Black bought the conservative Telegraph.

Black was eventually found out for using the Telegraph's cash to finance his own exotic lifestyle, which reached its zenith when Black married social climber and part-time journalist, Barbara Amiel. Black thereafter escaped Britain for the ultimate land of pirates, the United States, buying the bankrupt Chicago Sun Times, and establishing a social beachhead in Manhattan. He had ingratiated himself into Palm Beach's high society decades before that.

If you like detailed accounts of sex, international travel, social climbing, and bad business judgment, you will love this book.

[Hansen Alexander is author of "The Death of Chauvinism," a comic novel, and "An Introduction to the Laws of the United States in the 21rst Century," an Amazon e-book exclusive.]
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