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Is Black looking to rebuild media empire?

13:38 AEST Tue Jul 31 2012
Conrad Black (Getty)
Conrad Black (Getty)

Deposed media mogul Conrad Black, who spearheaded a transformation of Canadian media in the late 1990s and once led a global media empire, has hinted at a comeback in an interview.

"There is a great premium to be placed on the editorial function and on the goodwill of a famous trademark like a respected newspaper," he has told The Huffington Post.

"Any good title that's grossly underpriced could be interesting."

His remarks have fuelled speculation in Canada and in Britain that Black is considering buying a newspaper and making a media comeback.

Black returned to Canada on May 4 after serving 37 months behind bars in the United States for fraud and obstruction of justice, convictions that completed a remarkable fall from grace for a man once courted by the rich and powerful.

At its peak Black's newspaper group was one of the largest media empires in the world, with revenues in the billions of dollars and global daily circulation in the millions.

Its titles included Britain's Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, Canada's National Post and the Jerusalem Post. And he was the major shareholder in the Fairfax newspaper group.

Black told The Huffington Post that he is not actively looking for an opportunity to invest in newspapers again but his guarded responses to probing questions about how to make money where others struggled in the sector fuelled the conjecture.

"It's not that I don't have an answer, but I'm not going to answer because it might be an untimely and excessive disclosure, and compromise what I might actually do," he told the online newspaper.

Several media pointed to the struggling Postmedia Network of newspapers, which includes the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, titles Black used to own, as possible acquisition targets.

They noted, however, that tax laws in this country favour Canadian media ownership by allowing advertisers to deduct the cost of buying ads in newspapers.

Montreal-born Black, 67, renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 after a spat with then prime minister Jean Chretien, who protested his peerage to Britain's House of Lords.

He is in Canada on a one-year temporary resident permit.