ECONOMY: Empire crumbling around tycoon David Radler

Accused of one of the greatest capitalist capers in history, publishing magnate David Radler sat in a golf shirt in his Kitsilano office surrounded by an Israeli flag, a Vancouver Grizzlies jersey, and photos of him with Ronald Reagan and Condoleeza Rice.

Renowned for being a brash, aggressive deal-maker, Radler appeared anguished by what he agreed was the worst time of his life. “Yah, I’m mad,” he said in an exclusive one-hour interview Tuesday afternoon. “”It’s all pre-ordained crap.” He had only read about half of the 513-page Hollinger report accusing him and associates including Conrad Black, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger and other leading business and political figures of siphoning off $400 million from Hollinger International. He said the report was “political”, “full of mistaken facts”, and that it “smelled” of anti-Jewish sentiment, designed to “muzzle” him and put him through the U.S. legal system with “no one to defend you”.

“There’s all sorts of crap in there. It’s been poorly done,” he said. “Of course it’s political.” He said New York lawyers were ganging up on Black, originally a Toronto tycoon, and himself, a non-lawyer who has lived in Vancouver 35 years and donated to the Vancouver General Hospital among others. He says it’s “my style” to have his Hollinger headquarters in a nondescript two-storey tan brick building beside the “Art of Loving” store at West 5th and Burrard. “A bunch of lawyers came to interview me. They don’t know a thing about business.” Asked why they were doing this, he said: “In order to villify us. In order to get the directors off the hook. It’s a game to get them off the hook. The more they can throw on us, the more they can get them off the hook. They don’t deny that we had disclosed all this information. They said we did it in a tricky way. Well, how do you disclose information in a tricky way?”

Throughout the interview, he often asked a reporter to turn off a tape recorder and stop taking notes. But he did give two examples, on the record, of what he considered mistakes by investigators. He said the report accused of him of using company funds in donations to a geriatric wing of Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem, which he claims he paid for himself. Page 410 of the report says: “Black and Radler’s generosity with Hollinger’s funds pushed the limits of reasonableness.” Page 423 says: “Black’s generous use of Hollinger’s money to directors pet charities without the restraint of sound corporate governance controls, raises questions regarding the independence of those directors, particularly for Kravis and Kissinger, who were close friends with Black.”

Says Radler: “Why do you think they used this (in the report)? Because it’s Israeli, it’s Jewish.” He said the report also accused him of donating $168,000 for the Radler Business Wing at Queen’s University, his alma mater near several newspapers he owned. “They give the reasons that I wanted to self-glorify myself, by getting another wing named after me,” says Radler. “Do you really think that I care about some wing named after me in Kingston, Ontario?” He said investigators falsely reported that Queen’s University was in Toronto, not Kingston. “Everyone is from New York. They don’t even know where Kingston is. So if it’s a university of any consequence it must be in Toronto. They got their geography wrong and their reasons wrong. What kind of research is being done by these people? This is the kind of report that’s been issued.” “If someone says something to defend us in the report, it’s looked on glibly like, as if, oh well sure, they’re his employee. If they denounce us, then it doesn’t matter that they’re my employee.”

He said he spoke with Conrad Black earlier in the day, and that Black told him he’ll “do what he wants to do.” He said more details would come out in court and in a book Radler was writing despite being hit by these “distractions”. He said that in the U.S., business leaders were being forced to be their own corporate lawyers. “Unless you’re a lawyer, you can’t do business anymore.” He said that the lesson taught to him, a Canadian businessman who gained prominence on the world stage, was “Stay Home”.

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