The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with Conrad Black in his legal pursuit of directors at his former company who allege he pilfered money from the defunct newspaper conglomerate Hollinger International.
In a unanimous decision Wednesday, Canada's top court dismissed an appeal by the people Black says defamed him. The rulings allow Black to theoretically pursue defamation suits against Hollinger directors, although the two sides are in the process of finalizing an agreement to end the matter.
The case hinged on whether or not Black could pursue a libel suit against his accusers in Ontario, even though the accusations happened in Chicago, where the former newspaper conglomerate was based.
Black has alleged members of Hollinger's board and their adviser, Richard C. Breeden defamed him in several documents posted on Hollinger's U.S.-based website as his legal proceedings were getting underway in 2005.
The remarks were published in the United States and republished online by many media outlets in Ontario.
Breeden's lawyer has argued that Black, who is no longer a Canadian citizen, is engaging in "libel tourism" by bringing a lawsuit in the jurisdiction most likely to side in his favour.
In 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the case could go ahead in Ontario, where Black owns a home and spent the majority of his professional life.
The defendants sought leave with Canada's top court to overrule that decision but on Wednesday, the court ruled their appeal should be dismissed — meaning Black is free to pursue his libel suit in Ontario.
"The Illinois court does not emerge as a clearly more appropriate forum than an Ontario court for the trial of the libel action," Justice Louis LeBel wrote on behalf of the court's unanimous 7-0 decision.
Black's legal team welcomed the news on Wednesday.
"Conrad Black is delighted about the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which today decided that the Ontario court has jurisdiction to take his claims brought in 2004 and 2005 against Richard Breeden and other former directors and officers of the company formerly known as Hollinger International Inc.," Black's lawyers said in a statement.
Black and his former associates agreed last summer to a memorandum of understanding to resolve their dispute.
"The settlement remains subject to court approvals in Ontario and Delaware and, once approved, disposes of these actions notwithstanding the Supreme Court's favourable decision today," the statement said.
Black is currently serving the remainder of his fraud sentence in a Florida prison. But he is set to be released as early as next month.