Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, week 62

Yet another installment in our weekly series of motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start. Well, except for this week...

“This has been one massive smear job from A to Z and it will have a surprise ending, a complete vindication of the defendants and an exposure of their persecutors.”
Canadian tycoon Conrad Black, on Nov. 23, 2005

Black was sentenced today in Chicago to 6 ½ years in prison for fraud and obstruction of justice.

As a Canadian business leader who amassed his fortune through timely buying and selling rather than vision and innovation, Black seems to me a victim of what Vancouver real-estate entrepreneur Peter Thomas calls “King Arthur Syndrome.” It’s when you've had a few victories and think you can do no wrong.

In his book “Never Fight with a Pig,” Thomas recalls the heady 1970s, when no one could lose in B.C. real state. “Nelson [Skalbania] and I thought we were invincible,” he writes. Thomas says sufferers of King Arthur Syndrome “take no advice and accept none. They don't do their homework. They are overtaken with ambition, ego and greed, and so were we.”

Conrad Black seems to have understood the threat of this syndrome. As he once told biographer Peter C. Newman, "I have always felt it was the compulsive element in Napoleon that drew him into greater and greater undertakings, until he was bound to fail."

Sadly, Black seems to have been unable to recognize this syndrome in himself. He became excessively proud of his self-enriching legal manipulations. In 2002 he referred to Hollinger International serving “no purpose as a listed company other than relatively cheap use of other people's capital.” When outsiders grumbled about Hollinger’s internal workings, he told the London Times, "We are not running a Christian Scientists' meeting here … Anybody who complains about it can take a hike."

Regarding his use of corporate aircraft, he wrote in a notorious 2002 e-mail, “I'm not prepared to re-enact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of nobility... We are proprietors, after all.”

Such a waste. Black is an intelligent, talented man. Why take such pride in being a “proprietor” when he could have been a builder? Perhaps if he had been less concerned with making himself important, Conrad Black might have become more significant.

(Thanks to David Olive of the Toronto Star for compiling Black's best quotes. You can read his clipping file here.)

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