He's lost his dignity. Now his beloved Roller is going the same way. Is this the end of the road for Conrad Black?

Spotted last week salvaging what he could from his old offices, the former press baron is being forced to sell his cars, yachts and houses. David Usborne reports
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The Independent Online

Conrad Black insists he hasn't yet lost his shirt, in spite of the mounting legal and financial troubles stemming from the collapse of his media empire. He is, however, about to lose his beloved 1958 Rolls-Royce, currently mothballed in Essex. And a matter of cardboard boxes and security cameras has put the remains of his dignity on the line too.

Conrad Black insists he hasn't yet lost his shirt, in spite of the mounting legal and financial troubles stemming from the collapse of his media empire. He is, however, about to lose his beloved 1958 Rolls-Royce, currently mothballed in Essex. And a matter of cardboard boxes and security cameras has put the remains of his dignity on the line too.

Lord Black's burst of bravado came in an interview in Fortune magazine in the United States, in which he vows to rebuild his financial portfolio. "This is not a permanent state of affairs," he says in its current issue, referring to his pecuniary peril. He says he'll start again, but this time not in the newspaper business.

But no sooner were his words published than new troubles erupted for the one-time socialite and media tycoon. Scorned by former friends, isolated from old colleagues and allies, stripped of his London newspaper - The Daily Telegraph - and now his London home, too, there may be no end to his humiliations.

Indeed, this latest episode in the soap opera of Lord Black of Crossharbour's fall from grace, has bought freshembarrassment.

He and two assistants were caught on tape spiriting a dozen cardboard boxes out of offices he once occupied in the headquarters of Hollinger Inc in Toronto. The courts, which are investigating claims that he and other executives looted $400m (£230m) from the company and its Chicago-based subsidiary Hollinger International, had given Lord Black until Tuesday to vacate the building. But they told him not to remove anything from his office.

The boxes have been returned, and a spokesman for Lord Black insisted that they contained only personal effects he assumed had not been covered by the court order. But the impression left by the grainy black and white images from the tapes, enthusiastically picked up by media outlets around the world, was of amateur crooks bungling a corporate robbery.

Meanwhile, the trappings of the life of luxury once led by Lord Black and his columnist wife Barbara Amiel are slowly being disposed of. Faced with potentially ruinous lawsuits by regulators and shareholders in Canada and the US, as well as by a criminal US investigation, he has sold his Kensington townhouse for £13.5m.

He is also reported to be selling his estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, for $30m and his Manhattan flat for $5m. Other goodies are also being put on sale by receivers brought in last month to straighten out the finances of Ravelston, the Black-owned company through which he once controlled Hollinger.

Details of the fire sale were revealed in a first report on the financial state of Ravelston just delivered to the courts in Ontario by the receiver, RSM Richter. Items on the block include the Rolls-Royce, two yachts and some jewellery.

How much the Rolls - a 1958 Silver Wraith - will raise for Ravelston is uncertain. More might be raised from the two boats, valued by Ravelston at a total of $750,000. Among those owing money to Ravelston are Lord Black and his wife. She owes $61,386, he owes $759,000.

However, he is still far from the poorhouse. His fortunes may recover significantly, for example, if the receivers decide to privatise Ravelston. It would mean a quick infusion of cash for Lord Black.

He continues to insist that he is innocent of all charges and that the disputed transfers of money to his personal accounts happened with the approval of the Hollinger board.

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