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A cyclist rides along South Oceans Boulevard outside Conrad Black's former home in Florida. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
A cyclist rides along South Oceans Boulevard outside Conrad Black's former home in Florida. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Conrad Black loses Florida mansion Add to ...

Conrad Black won't have his Florida mansion to go back to once he gets out of jail.

Lord Black's 21,000-square-foot oceanfront home in Palm Beach has been put up for sale without a specified asking price. It has been assessed at $32.6-million (U.S.) by city officials for tax purposes.

The listing comes a few weeks after Lord Black transferred ownership of the property to a Connecticut-based investment firm.

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According to property records, he and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, transferred the deed of the house on Feb. 3 to Blackfield Holdings LLC to settle an $11.6-million mortgage. Blackfield is now listed as the sole owner.

The Palm Beach house has five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a tennis court, pool, movie theatre and exercise room, according to the listing by real estate agent Linda Gary. The house is a "Splendid British Colonial estate offering high ceilings, beautiful mouldings, commercial appliances in kitchen and butler's pantry," Ms. Gary says on her website. The mansion sits on more than three acres of land and also includes a two-storey guest house and a tunnel to the beach under the road. Although property records show it was built in 1973, Ms. Gary said in a brief interview that it has been extensively renovated.

"This house was completely taken down and gutted in the year 2000," she said on Wednesday. Ms. Gary declined further comment on the sale.

Officials at Blackfield were not available.

Lord Black is serving a 61/2-year sentence in Florida for fraud and obstruction of justice during his time at Hollinger International Inc., a newspaper company based in Chicago. He has appealed his convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on the case this spring. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons lists his earliest release date as Oct. 30, 2013.

The Blacks bought the Palm Beach house in 1997 for just under $10-million and it played a central role in Lord Black's criminal case.

He used the property as security to post bail in 2005, prompting U.S. prosecutors to put a lien on it (the lien was removed last December by a Chicago court). The Canada Revenue Agency also once had a lien on the property for about $13-million because of a tax dispute. When prosecutors tried, unsuccessfully, to revoke Lord Black's bail a couple of times, they alleged that he failed to disclose required details about the mortgage on the house and the CRA lien.

According to court filings, Lord Black borrowed $10-million on May 15, 2005 from Houston-based Laminar Direct Capital LP. That loan was secured by the Palm Beach house and it carried a 21-per-cent interest rate. The loan was supposed to be repaid in a year, but he received several extensions, filings show.

Laminar eventually ended up as part of Plainfield Asset Management, a Connecticut-based firm that is related to Blackfield Holdings.

Lord Black has tried to sell the house before; he listed it for sale in 2005 for $37-million but received no takers. He tested the market again in 2006, also without success.

The couple still owns a house in Toronto. Property records show the Blacks took out a $3-million (Canadian) mortgage on that property in 2008, at an interest rate of 12 per cent, from Vancouver-based Ionic Capital Corp. The couple increased the loan amount to $6-million last year, records show.

With files from Janet McFarland

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