Conrad Black is preparing to move from the palatial estate that his family once owned in Toronto’s exclusive Bridle Path enclave.
The former media baron says he and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, have chosen a new residence in the Greater Toronto Area. The couple have been leasing 26 Park Lane Circle from Toronto businessman Harold Perry since Mr. Black sold the Georgian-style mansion on 6.6 acres of land to his long-time friend in 2016.
“It was my decision and my relations with Mr. Perry continue to be excellent,” Mr. Black said in an e-mail of his decision to leave the storied property.
The house was built in 1939 and later purchased by Mr. Black’s father, George Montegu Black. Mr. Black says the house was extensively renovated by his father in 1950, then he largely rebuilt and extended the residence in 1981. It was further expanded in 1995.
In 2016, the house was advertised with an estimated value of $21.8-million on the website of New York-based Concierge Auctions.
Over the years, Mr. Black and his family entertained Richard Nixon, the Duke of Edinburgh and Elton John in the nine-bedroom house, which includes a chapel consecrated by two cardinals. The amenities listed at the time of the 2016 sale include an indoor pool, a wine cellar and a billiard room.
The copper cupola that graces the top of the library is modelled on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The auction was set to take place at Toronto’s five-star Four Seasons Hotel, but before bidding could begin, the auctioneer announced to the assembled guests that a deal was in the works.
It later emerged that the undisclosed buyer was Mr. Perry, founder and chairman of the executive search firm Mandrake Management Consultants, who leased it back to Mr. Black for a reported $155,000 a year.
Mr. Perry said Thursday that he has no plans to sell the storied property but he has been fielding inquiries from “high-profile people” who are interested in buying it or leasing it.
“I have some business reasons to hang onto it,” he says.
Mr. Perry is also the owner of the independent Crestwood School and Crestwood Preparatory College. The lower school educates children from junior kindergarten to Grade 6 at its facility on Lawrence Avenue East, which is very close to the Park Lane Circle property. The upper school is in a building about a 20-minute drive away.
Mr. Perry has hired a firm to look into the potential for rezoning the property for use by Crestwood. Meanwhile, he has been contacted by international representatives, including some from embassies.
“The bottom line is, I’m open to conversations.”
Mr. Perry said Mr. Black, who has been a friend for decades, may plan the logistics of the move at his leisure. “He can leave whenever it’s amenable to him,” Mr. Perry said. “He has 25,000 books that have to be removed.”
Mr. Black maintained a base at the Park Lane Circle house as he fought a near decade-long legal battle over allegations of misappropriating money at Chicago-based Hollinger International Inc., a key part of the Hollinger newspaper empire Mr. Black co-founded in the late 1960s. At its peak, Hollinger owned hundreds of papers across Canada, the United States, Britain and Israel.
Mr. Black and four other Hollinger executives faced a number of criminal charges. He was convicted in 2007 of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice, but two of the fraud counts were later overturned on appeal. He served 37 months in a U.S. prison and was released in 2012, when he returned to Canada.
He received a pardon last year from U.S. President Donald Trump, which Mr. Black characterized as a complete exoneration.