David Radler Back at Paper That Started Conrad Black’s Empire

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By: E&P Staff

David Radler is back at The Record, the tiny Sherbrooke, Quebec, daily where he and Conrad Black started the worldwide newspaper empire that 25 years later would collapse amid accusations of massive corporate corruption.

Radler bought a stake of undisclosed size in the Record when Alberta Newspaper Group, a private company in which he is a shareholder, acquired an interest in the paper as part of a transaction with Glacier Ventures International Corp., the Vancouver, B.C.-based publishing company.

In 1969, Black, Radler, and Peter White paid a reported $20,000 to buy the money-losing Record. Radler immediately implemented the cost-slashing strategy for which he would become famous, firing about half the staff, but putting the paper in the black within a year.

It was at the Record, Black would later say only half-jokingly, that the two first envisioned a three-person newsroom — with two of them selling advertising.

The three sold the Record in 1977, and Black, with Radler as his trusted lieutenant, went on to form Hollinger International Inc., which at its peak published hundreds of papers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London, and The Jerusalem Post.

Black stands accused in civil lawsuits, and a U.S. federal criminal indictment in Chicago, of directing a massive looting of Hollinger through improper fees, contracts and payments that took some $400 million from the company over eight years. Black, who has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case due for trial next March, resigned as CEO of Hollinger.

Radler, who served for a time as publisher of the Sun-Times, pleaded guilty to a single charge of mail fraud last December as part of a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against Black and other former Hollinger executives accused of wrongdoing in the alleged fraud.

Under the agreement, Radler will be sentenced to 29 months in jail — which he likely will be allowed to serve in his native Canada — plus a fine of $250,000.

In a CanWest News Service story by Don MacDonald, Radler said nostalgia was one reason he bought the Record stake.

“You always want to come back to the paper where you started, but, ultimately, the value of the investment will be judged by how we do, not on sentiment,” Radler said. “The funny part is that I went back there last week, and there aren’t that many people who even remember us.”

This is actually the third time Radler is getting involved with the Record. After selling it in 1977, Hollinger bought the paper from Quebecor Inc. in 1999. Hollinger, which is now known as Sun-Times Media Group, sold the paper to Glacier in January when it shed the last off its Canadian properties.

According to the CanWest News Service account, Alberta Newspaper Group, which publishes dailies and community papers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, merged its assets into Alta Newspaper Group LP. Glacier moved the Record into the partnership, and paid C$28.2 million ($25 million) for a 50% stake in the group. Glacier is also loaning the partnership C$15 million ($13.3 million), the news service reported.

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