Matthew Steeples takes a look at a £36 million Kensington mansion formerly owned by disgraced business tycoons Alan Bond and Lord Black; its former chatelaine was known for stating “I have an extravagance that know no bounds”
Sir Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary Soames once described the buccaneering businessman and media tycoon Lord Black of Crossharbour as “London’s biggest bore unhung” whilst his wife, Lady Black – better known as the author and journalist Barbara Amiel – was suggested to be just a “rich bitch” by Sarah Sands in a “case for the defence” article in the Independent in October 2006.
“Poster boy for the 80s” turned fraudster and jailbird Alan Bond (1938 – 2015) was an English-Australian businessman equally Marmite-like in being liked or loathed and now a Kensington mansion owned for a time by both subsequently disgraced businessmen is once again for sale.
14 Cottesmore Gardens, formerly known as 12 – 14 Cottesmore Gardens, was purchased by Alan Bond’s Satellite Group for £7 million in the 1980s and sold by administrators of that business to Conrad Black and his wife for the knockdown sum of just £3.5 million in 1992.
Plain old Mr and Mrs Black (as they then were) lavished further millions – some of which came from the company Hollinger International, Inc., which ultimately resulted in their downfall – on the double fronted 19th century mansion and used it for entertaining on a lavish scale. Guests, including the likes of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Joan Collins, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Goldsmith, James Hanson, Arnold Weinstock, Jacob Rothschild, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair, were said to flock to the parties they gave there, but in 2005 these gatherings of upto 400 people at a time came to an almighty end.
Forced to sell at a bargain basement price of just £13.1 million on an ask of £17.5 million as the Canadian born billionaire faced jail time in America, Lord and Lady Black’s tenure was over and the residence saw its “arriviste torch” passed to Juan and Adriana Villalonga, a couple described as “a Mexican telecom czar and his beauty-queen wife.” Of what came next, The Globe And Mail’s Paul Waldie pointedly penned in February 2007: “[They] quickly erased many of the features that the Blacks prized.”
Once again for sale as of April 2023, the value of 14 Cottesmore Gardens has again been deemed to have substantially risen. Knight Frank offer the 12,310 square foot, five-storey residence at a punchy price of £36 million and laud it as “imposing” and “presented in good order throughout.” They add that a “pre-planning consultation” has found that further accommodation could be added that would take the internal space to more than 15,000 square feet; business barons with deep pockets only need apply.
Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party. Follow Matthew Steeples on Twitter at @M_Steeples.
Pictured Top – 54-foot wide 14 Cottesmore Gardens is described by selling agents Knight Frank as “offering lateral living so often requested but so hard to find in central London.” They neglect to mention that with its hedges cut back to the minimum, the place actually looks extremely forlorn.
The Names & Numbers – 14 Cottesmore Gardens (formerly known as ’12 – 14 Cottesmore Gardens’), Kensington, London, W8 5PR, United Kingdom
April 2023 – Offered for sale for £36 million ($44.4 million, €40.9 million or درهم163.2 million) through Knight Frank. Valued on Homipi at an upper sum of £28.558 million ($35.250 million, €32.440 million or درهم129.456 million).
2009 – Mr and Mrs Villalonga divorce and subsequently Adriana Abascal married Emmanuel Schreder, a French businessman, in Ibiza in June 2013.
2005 – Sold by Lord and Lady Black for £13.1 million ($16.2 million, €14.9 million or درهم59.4 million) to Spanish businessman Juan Villalonga Navarro and Mexican model, Miss Mexico winner and television presenter Adriana Abascal López-Cisneros Villalonga.
October 2004 – Placed for sale for £17.5 million ($21.6 million, €19.9 million or درهم79.3 million) according to NZ Herald.
January 2004 – Valued at £14 million ($17.3 million, €15.9 million or درهم63.5 million) according to The Globe And Mail. At the time, the “mansion” in “the upscale Kensington neighbourhood” was described as having “10 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms and a swimming pool.”
Featured also in The Guardian in an article by Chris Tryhorn. Quoting Lord Black, he shared: “At a certain price, anything is for sale. [It has] been shown to people in the not-too-distant-past.”
Going further, Tryhorn added: “Artwork from the 18th and 19th centuries lines the walls, and there is plenty of storage space for the extensive wardrobe and shoe collection of Lord Black’s wife, Barbara Amiel, who famously declared once that her ‘extravagence knows no bounds.’ … It was originally two homes and one of the two original front doors is now a ‘deliveries’ entrance. He has used it in the past to host dinners with butler and maid service that was part-paid by Hollinger.”
“Every year the Blacks threw two parties, one at Christmas and one summer event, at their double-fronted 11-bedroom mansion in Cottesmore Gardens. Everybody who mattered at the time went: Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Goldsmith, James Hanson, Arnold Weinstock, Jacob Rothschild, royalty, the playwright Tom Stoppard.”
“Some of these, injudiciously as it turned out, agreed to join the main Hollinger board. The luckier ones – Peter Carrington, Robert Salisbury – got away with being made directors of TheTelegraph. As the Tories faded out, Labour ministers started to arrive, the indefatigable Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett and other ministers eager to ingratiate themselves with the Tory press. Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were assiduous in attendance. In London, the Nineties belonged to the Blacks. They were London’s most glamorous power couple.”
“There had been a time when both Blacks had kept their feet on the ground. This ceased to be the case. One evening Barbara Black rang Charles Moore panic-stricken from her Kensington home. There had been a last-minute drop-out from one of the famous Black dinner parties. ‘I’m short of a woman,’ she told Moore. Moore surveyed the newsroom. His gaze alighted on the journalist Eleanor Mills, by chance the stepdaughter of the Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell.”
“An hour later, hastily groomed, made-up and brushed, Mills was sipping pre-dinner drinks in Cottesmore Gardens. Then disaster struck. A male guest, Max Fisher, dropped out. Mills was approached by Conrad Black. ‘Finish your drink and skedaddle,’ he told her. Barbara Black then told her to go to the kitchen and out through the servants’ door, where the driver would pick her up and take her home.”
2001 – Conrad Black is elevated to a life peerage in the United Kingdom at the suggestion of Tony Blair. He sat on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords until 2007 as The Right Honourable The Lord Black of Crossharbour KCSG, but took a “leave of absence” between 2012 and 2019.
28th May 1996 – The Royal Borough of Kensington And Chelsea ordered that 12 – 14 Cottesmore Gardens “shall be known and described” simply instead as 14 Cottesmore Gardens.
1992 – 12 and 14 Cottesmore Gardens sold by the administrators of the affairs of Alan Bond through estate agents Savills to media tycoon Conrad Black and his Watford born journalist wife Barbara Amiel Black for “well under the asking price” for a sum of £3.5 million ($4.3 million, €4 million or درهم15.9 million).
Mr Bond had been granted mortgages valued at £16.2 million ($20 million, €18.4 million or درهم73.5 million) on the property by Bell Satellite Services on the property along with two others at 4 and 16 Belgrave Mews in London, SW1 previously according to a report published by Financial Review in March 1990.
1991 – Rented to an American businessman for £6,000 per week ($7,400, €6,800 or درهم27,200 per week).
1990 – Placed in the hands of administrators of Mr Bond’s and placed for sale through Savills for a bargain basement sum of £3.8 million ($4.7 million, €4.3 million or درهم17.2 million) according to Financial Review.
1980s – Sold to Alan Bond’s Bell Satellite Group for £7 million ($8.6 million, €8 million or درهم31.7 million).
Circa 1905 – Walter Tapper is said to have “designed a library with handsome Arts and Crafts plasterwork (now removed) at the rear of the building.”
1869 – In their current marketing blurb, Knight Frank suggest: “There has been a house on the site of 12 – 14 Cottesmore Gardens since at least 1869. The current house has been altered, extended and most notably joined over the subsequent century and a half. With the local planning department strongly opposed to further amalgamation of homes, opportunities to acquire a house of this width will be rarer still in the future.”
1850s to 1860s – Built “under the direction of David Howell, of Serjeants Inn, Fleet Street.” Mr Howell was described in 1853 as an “articled clerk to a solicitor, lately carrying on business as a solicitor.” The architecture was lauded as: “Designed in a bold classical manner, with rather fleshy consoles and modillions… and bands of Vitruvian scroll between the bases of the ground-floor windows.”
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.
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