The Establishment Man: A Portrait of Power


349 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7710-6785-2




Reviewed by Toby Rupert

Toby Rupert was a librarian living in Toronto.


Newman is the authority on who has and who holds power in Canada. His continual fascination with the fiscal giants (since money = power) has resulted in such books as The Canadian Establishment, The Acquisitors, and The Bronfman Dynasty. In this book he deals with Conrad Black, who took over Argus Corporation in 1978 on $7 million (inherited) and thereby got control of $4 billion worth of assets within four months.

The biography is finely detailed but it is very episodic, as if put together on a piecemeal basis. At times it can be confusing because of the welter of facts, figures, and footnotes given by Newman, who is not known for his spareness of style. Along with the insider-type viewpoints expressed through interviews and private conversations (resulting in such reportage as this classic line from Black: “I have always had the twin ambitions to have at least $100 million and to get away from Canadian winters”), Newman’s book is journalism at both its best and its most excessive. Useful appendices include various contracts of agreement stipulating the shift of power from an aging E.P. Taylor to Conrad Black, letters to Herb Gray, then Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, a list of officers of Angus since 1945, and a list of invitees to a private dinner put on by Argus (such a list shows who’s who in the corporate community). As a straightforward biography it lacks the perspective of time, but as reporting on how and why Black did what he did, it is first rate.


Newman, Peter C., “The Establishment Man: A Portrait of Power,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,