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Black's pricey artwork lands on auction block

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

When Conrad Black vacated his Toronto office in May, 2005, amid a mounting criminal probe, he left behind a stack of personal mementos and some pricey artwork.

Nearly everything went into storage while Lord Black and the company he once controlled, Hollinger Inc., fought over ownership of the various items. The issues have finally been resolved and now part of the collection is going up for sale.

This evening, two paintings that once graced Lord Black's office walls will be part of an auction at Joyner Waddington's in Toronto. They are The Shore Road by A. Y. Jackson and Pont Bourbeau Sous La Neige by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté.

The Jackson piece is valued at up to $100,000 by Joyner, while the Suzor-Coté is estimated to be worth as much as $300,000.

Lord Black and Hollinger will split the proceeds according to a formula in a confidential agreement.

The agreement covers about a dozen items, including several sculptures and personal items, such as a photograph of Lord Black and former U.S. president Richard Nixon, as well as a framed letter to Lord Black from Paul Desmarais, founder of Power Corp. According to a regulatory filing by Hollinger last week, the artwork is worth about $1.3-million in total.

At first Hollinger officials planned to sell everything, but they backed down when Lord Black kicked up a fuss.

"Hollinger Inc. put almost everything else up for auction, though they were well aware of my claim on some of it," Lord Black said in an e-mail. "When we threatened to take an injunction against the auction, they quickly reached a more reasonable settlement. ... In fact they agreed to almost everything we had asked initially."

Officials from Hollinger, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, declined comment.

Under the agreement, reached Nov. 12, Lord Black kept most of the personal items and relinquished control over much of the artwork. The company plans to auction the remaining pieces this week.

This is the second deal Lord Black has struck over artwork that once hung in his office and various homes.

In September, he reached an agreement with the receiver of Ravelston Corp. Ltd., once his Toronto-based private company, over the ownership of three portraits of himself by Andy Warhol. Under that deal, Lord Black put up nearly $400,000 to purchase one of the silkscreen paintings and Ravelston was free to sell the other two. The final amount Lord Black pays for his painting will be based on the average Ravelston gets for the others. One sold this month for $289,000 (U.S.).

Ravelston filed for receivership in 2005 and the money raised from the Warhol sales will go to creditors. Lord Black used to control the Hollinger newspaper empire through Ravelston, which he also controlled.

In July, he and three other former executives from the Hollinger group were convicted on fraud charges relating to the diversion of millions of dollars from the company. Lord Black was also convicted of obstruction of justice. They will be sentenced on Dec. 10.

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