Now, back in London, the publications which had been his prized possessions, the Telegraph titles and The Spectator, are rocked by their own departures and insecurities.
Martin Newland, whose appointment as editor of The Daily Telegraph was one of Lord Black's last moves as chairman, quit under the weight of managerial interference. His particular moment of truth came when he finally decided to commit a leader to supporting David Cameron in the Conservative leadership race, only to find it pulled on management orders.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, whom Lord Black appointed six years ago as editor of The Spectator, denied he was going, but management sources suggested that he was.
Managing Britain's biggest-selling quality newspaper has never been an easy venture. The change-resistant older readers, and the competition from Rupert Murdoch's Times, has made hauling the Telegraph papers into the 21st century a tricky job. Yet, having retained their powerful and distinctive constituency, the struggle for the soul of the Tory party is compounding divisions at the heart of the Telegraph Group. And at the same time, staff feel as though they have been subject to a backdoor takeover by another group - Associated Newspapers.
The change came 18 months ago when the Telegraph Group was bought by the Barclay brothers, who appointed Murdoch MacLennan, an Associated Newspapers veteran, as chief executive. He brought a flood of Associated staff to join him, along with a management style that was previously unknown at the erstwhile civilised and gentlemanly Telegraph.
The loss of Newland was met with sadness but no surprise among staff who had witnessed his steady emasculation, culminating last week in the imposition of John Bryant, an Associated Newspaper executive, as editor-in-chief over him. As Bryant would attend editorial conferences and potentially over-rule him, this situation was fatally damaging to Newland's authority. He consulted lawyers about the possibility of suing for constructive dismissal.
In the event Newland resigned, to MacLennan's evident surprise, and Bryant told staff that he would be acting editor for several months. Even when a replacement editor was found, he would remain as editor-in-chief.
At least, Newland remarked ruefully, he had not been sacked. The unsentimental management strategy of the Barclay brothers had already been witnessed at The Sunday Telegraph, whose former editor, Dominic Lawson, was escorted from the building earlier this year. His successor, Sarah Sands, herself a former Associated Newspapers veteran, may have wondered why Bryant was needed above her. But she is generally highly thought-of by management - conceivably even as a future editor of the daily - and in no danger of jumping ship, even if her own paper's relaunch, aiming to feminise the paper and take it closer to the Mail On Sunday, has had its critics.
For staff remaining on The Daily Telegraph, nervous eyes are now on MacLennan, and his likes - which include developing technological innovations like allowing readers to download reports onto their iPod - and his dislikes - which are presumed to include David Cameron as Tory leader.
His choice of Bryant - known as "origami man" because two papers he edited, the Sunday Correspondent and The European, both folded - is not an obvious one. Friendly and competent, Bryant has already shown a keen interest in becoming a hands-on editor, telling staff that he intends to tackle the features pages, criticising the age-profile of some of its correspondents and admitting that parts of the editorial are "all over the place".
But if Newland's departure sent shivers through Canary Wharf, nowhere did it strike a chill more than the Doughty Street offices of The Spectator, where editor and management are, to put it politely, exhibiting a certain dissonance.
According to sources close to management, The Spectator will be under new editorship in 2006. According to Boris Johnson, he's staying put. The reporter who floated the suggestion that he might be off soon was dismissed as "a simpering scuzzbucket".
Yet Johnson's extravagant vocabulary alone was a giveaway. Who could forget the "inverted pyramid of piffle" by which he sought to deny reports of an affair with Spectator colleague Petronella Wyatt - a denial which brought about his sacking from the Tory front bench a year ago? No one doubts he would like the position back if David Cameron is elected to lead the Tories.
While the recent association of The Spectator with office affairs is credited with bringing sales up to 66,000, the owners are worried that the magazine may be notorious more for what goes on between the sheets than between the pages. When the Barclays bought the Telegraph Group, The Spectator was put under the aegis of Andrew Neil, who has made it clear that he thinks the magazine should be edited by someone who can give it their full attention.
He is also understood to feel that the magazine has failed to occupy its proper position as a crucible of right-wing thought. And now, he is said to believe The Spectator should be entering a new phase, with plans to raise circulation to 100,000. "Andrew Neil refuses to tolerate Boris's serial conflicts of interest," says one figure close to events. "And Boris has sacrificed its editorial integrity with slavish devotion to David Cameron."
Yet it isn't clear whether the job is in Neil's gift or whether MacLennan will have a say. The latter is thought to favour Simon Heffer, a close friend whom he brought over to the Telegraph from the Daily Mail.
Other names in the frame include Matthew D'Ancona, the deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph. A fellow of All Souls, who is also a George Lucas nerd, colleagues say D'Ancona "does not do leadership well", though this in itself is not a disadvantage. The name of Peter Oborne, The Spectator's political editor is also touted, along with Quentin Letts, the iconoclastic Daily Mail sketch writer. Geordie Greig, the Tatler editor, is not being considered. Readers are promised that a "surprise" is just as likely as any of the names circulating.
Boris has four children and is reluctant to be ousted, but he won't starve. "Boris will be fine. He can make millions from TV appearances and columns. He writes novels. He's doing a book. He doesn't need all this hassle," says a friend. "It's like I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here."
Latest news on the Dot
While senior people at The Daily Telegraph were trying to work out how to release the news of the resignation of its editor Martin Newland, Dorothy Brown, better known to everyone as Dot, the letters editor's secretary, was showing off the powers of perception and nose for a story for which she is famed at the paper. She casually went round the office on Friday morning breaking the news.
More Dotty tales
Dot Brown's perspicacity puts her far above other secretaries. Her greatest hits include going to see Charles Moore for a pay rise. "'Ere, I think there's some racial discrimination going on," she said. "Can I have a pay rise?" Snooks opened his wallet and offered her £5. "'Ere, that's not enough." So he gave her £20. Dot also confronted Veronica Wadley, then features editor of the Telegraph, now editor of the Evening Standard, in the ladies. "'Ere, Veronica, you spend so much time putting on your make-up, you don't have no time left for writing the paper, innit?," she is reported to have noted. On the marriage of diarist Charlie Methven to Pearson heiress Charlotte, Dot cut straight to the chase. Seeing the spiv in the office, she asked, "'Ere, what are you doing back at work? I heard you got married to some rich bird so you wouldn't have to work no more."
Something for conspiracy theorists to chew on. Martin Newland, being a civil sort of bloke, gamely took a few calls himself on Friday, explaining that he didn't really have much to add to the official statement; that he wished everyone well; that it's all been as amicable as possible, etc. Mysteriously, in mid-call, the line went quiet. Newland appeared to have vanished. He's not the sort to simply put the phone down. Had he been cut off?
Splash dies a death
Martin Newland can't have been happy to discover that the last splash of his reign has been rubbished. The Daily Telegraph suggested that 20 per cent of men would die between 65, the current retirement age, and 67, the proposed one. Baloney, says the Government actuary. The Torygraph misinterpreted the figures: 96.6 per cent of men who make it to 65 will still be around for their 67th birthday. And this is a big issue for Telegraph readers.
Obs's Berliner date
Further news on the launch of The Observer's Berliner edition. Anyone interested should pencil in Sunday 8 January.
Who says University Challenge has dumbed down? Last Friday, lads' mag Nuts held an audition to decide which members of its staff should be in the magazine's team. "Actually there are some very clever people at Nuts," says a loyal friend defensively.
Don't smack children
At an hour when young viewers may have been watching, Channel 4's digital channel, E4, screened the video for a song about heroin use. The promo for Blur's "Beetlebum", shown at 8am on Tuesday, features images of singer Damon Albarn slumping deliriously as though he has just taken the drug. Didn't the channel's bosses think this rather strong meat? Yes, but instead of censoring the heroin footage, they pixellated shots of bass player Alex James smoking a cigarette.
Wheen moves to 'ES'
Congratulations to the Evening Standard. Lest anyone should think it does not have enough columnists, it has just succeeded where many others have failed and signed up Private Eye's Francis Wheen.Reuse content