For longtime Pentagon adviser and boardroom insider Richard N. Perle, the bonus plan at newspaper publisher Hollinger International Inc. was a can't-lose proposition.
While Perle was overseeing Hollinger as a member of the board for the past several years, he also was co-chairman of a subsidiary that invested in dot-coms. He participated in a bonus plan that paid executives a share of the profits from successful Internet investments without taking into account losses on failures, the company said in a complaint against its former chief executive, Conrad M. Black, and others filed in federal court in Chicago this month.
Perle's Business Ventures: A look at Richard N. Perle's government and public policy-related jobs and how they relate to his business activities.
Perle's Path: Richard N. Perle has translated his Pentagon connections, first established when he served as an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, into an array of corporate directorships and consulting arrangements.
Perle received $3.1 million in such bonuses from May 2000 to January 2001, the complaint said.
During that time, as a member of Hollinger's executive committee, Perle signed forms giving officers of the company license to negotiate deals that Hollinger now alleges improperly enriched the other two members of the executive committee, Black and F. David Radler, who was chief operating officer.
Hollinger said in court papers that one such executive committee authorization in September 2000 was "bogus" partly because Perle received the bonuses, "knew nothing about" the transaction and answered to Black and Radler, thus lacking independence.
Black and Radler have vigorously denied the company's charges. Perle was not named as a defendant in the recent Hollinger complaint. He was named as a defendant in an earlier suit filed in Delaware by a Hollinger institutional investor, which accused him of "standing idle" and failing to provide "any meaningful oversight" while Black and other executives looted the company. Proceedings in the Delaware suit have been held up, awaiting the results of an investigation by a Hollinger committee.
In an interview Saturday, Perle said the investor's lawsuit "is in many respects just out and out wrong and in other respects very misleading," and any suggestion "that actions or decisions taken by me involved a quid pro quo for compensation I received . . . is absolutely false."
"Did I take actions, inappropriate actions, because of actual or promised or anticipated rewards or compensation? The answer is flatly no," he said.
The Hollinger story opens a window on a less visible side of Perle's career since he left the Reagan administration, in which he was assistant secretary of defense. He has been a director on more than a dozen corporate boards, and has served with some of the same people on multiple boards.
On one level, Perle's business career is like those of many former Washington officials who used the expertise and contacts gained in government to carve niches in the corporate world. But more than most, Perle also has maintained an active public policy role. Perle, 62, is best known in recent years for his advocacy of war with Iraq and tough measures to fight terrorism. Over the weekend, Perle was trying to rally support for Ahmed Chalabi, the embattled head of the Iraqi National Congress, who for years Perle has backed.
Perle also is an author and lecturer, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and was a foreign policy adviser to George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.
"There is no 'main gig,' " Perle said of his many roles. "It's all of these and it changes from one day to the next," he said.
"There are days when I am on the way to the airport and I say to myself, 'How am I managing to do this?' Sure there are days when I'm spread too thin and there are times when I've thought this isn't fair to my family."
Unlike many who pass through Washington's revolving door, Perle for 17 years managed to keep one foot in the government as a member of the Defense Policy Board, which offers advice on key issues to the secretary of defense.