Pre-emptive Offer Heads Off Bidding War on Conrad Black Estate

Friday Mar 11th, 2016



The highly-anticipated auction of Conrad Black's Toronto mansion was called off when a pre-emptive offer landed just as the bidding was set to begin. 

Participants who had gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto were left to sip wine and snack on hors d'oeuvres as the clock ticked past the 6pm start time. Less than 10 minutes later, they were informed by a representative of the auction house that negotiations for a sale of 26 Park Lane Circle were under way. 

Mr. Black was spotted in the hallways of the five-star hotel but mainly stayed out of the limelight, according to one guest. 

The former newspaper baron divulged last month that his 6.6-acre estate in the exclusive Bridle Path neighbourhood was on the block and Concierge Auctions of New York announced that it would preside over the bidding, set for March 8.

The Georgian-style house was advertised with an estimated value of $21.8-million on the Concierge website. 

In the intervening weeks, prospective buyers who were able to prove their net worth with financial statements were able to book a viewing of the estate's 9 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, indoor swimming pool and coach house. 

On Tuesday night, about 20 guests gathered for a 5pm cocktail reception at the Four Seasons. As servers proffered smoked salmon and ricotta balls, bona fide bidders put up $250,000 to obtain a paddle.

One woman in possession of a paddle was in the room, while guests were told another would be bidding by phone. The auction house reps announced at about 5.50pm that the auction would soon get under way, according to one person in the room. But proceedings were thrown into confusion 20 minutes later when the live bidding failed to materialize. Guests swallowed their remaining wine and departed when they were told that a deal was likely to be signed that night.

The home has entertained many high-profile guests including Margaret Thatcher, Richard Nixon, Elton John and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was first built by Black's father, George Montegu Black, and has been in the family for 65 years. The online listing notes that the home was built by famed architect Thierry W. Despont, whose clients include Bill Gates, Calvin Klein and the late Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos.

The Bridle Path neighbourhood is known as Millionaire's Row and is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the country. 

"It is a big house for two people," Black said in a statement last month. "We will be abroad a good deal and moving to a more manageable home will be a convenience to us now as our careers have evolved."

Black, who once owned several newspapers, served three years in prison for wire fraud after he was convicted in 2007 in the U.S. while head of Toronto-based Hollinger Inc.

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