Conrad Black’s return: a Maclean’s exclusive

’My brave sweet duck, the night is over,’ he said to Barbara Amiel
Conrad Black, right, kisses his wife Barbra Amiel Black as he arrives at his Bridle Path residence in Toronto on Friday, May 4, 2012. Black was released from a Florida State prison after serving his sentence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
(Nathan Denette/CP images)

“My brave sweet duck, the night is over.” Those were the first words Conrad Black said to his wife after being released from serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.

In an exclusive, candid five-page essay in Maclean’s this week, Barbara Amiel tells the intimate story of the arduous years the two spent apart and the tense and tumultuous countdown to his final release.

The last week of his imprisonment—not knowing his exact release date or if he could indeed settle in Canada—was its own particular kind of torture, she says, revealing for the first time the uncertainty that went down to the wire about where the former media baron would be allowed to settle.

“On May 1, I was choosing clothes for Conrad. . . I packed a suitcase to take with me: a suit if we had to go to the U.K., a jacket for Canada, lighter clothing for Bermuda, a couple of ties and underwear. Now that ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had decreed I couldn’t meet him at the prison, I gave up on the pretty dress thing and opted for jeans comfort and getting my hair done.”

Black returned home to Toronto on May 4 after being released from prison in Miami, where he had been serving a 42-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice.
As Amiel writes in the Maclean’s piece, Black began to worry that the government would rescind the Temporary Resident Permit he had been granted because of the fuss caused by opposition leader Thomas Mulcair and the ensuing storm in the media that occurred in the days before his release.

“Now wound up by the emails he had received, a frantic Conrad managed to get to the prison telephone at 6:05 a.m. and called my dedicated black Samsung whose number is programmed into the prison computer. ‘I haven’t slept at all. The government will fold,’ he said. ‘They are going to withdraw my (Temporary Resident Permit). . . . ‘I’m taking my blood pressure pills but I don’t know how much more of this I can take before I have a stroke.’ I’m the drama queen in this family.,” Amiel writes. “When Conrad worries about a stroke you know he is in difficulty.”

Now at home in Toronto, Amiel writes of cooking for her husband as he regains his health and gets accustomed once more to life outside. “He hasn’t got back enough strength in his leg yet to easily walk the dogs any length of time but that will come. I had to remind him how to use a Toronto telephone and how to drive a keyless car. It’s all new.”

The full exclusive account from Barbara Amiel is in the latest issue of Maclean’s.