Heirs of Beaverbrook sell off his former estate

The heirs of Lord Beaverbrook have sold off the press baron's former estate in England.
The heirs of Lord Beaverbrook have sold off the press baron's former Cherkley Court estate in England. ((The Beaverbrook Foundation))
The heirs of Lord Beaverbrook have sold off the press baron's former estate in Britain.

Cherkley Court could soon be the site of a golf course and luxury hotel.

The sale could be the final chapter in one of the two Beaverbrook art disputes.

It's been a century since Lord Beaverbrook — the Fleet Street press baron from the Miramichi — bought Cherkley Court, outside London.

A decade ago, his descendants and their charitable foundation decided to renovate the house and turn it into a conference centre.

The plan was to pay for the work by selling off paintings at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, N.B., which was founded by Lord Beaverbrook in 1959.

Lord Beaverbrook was from New Brunswick and donated many pieces of art from his personal collection to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton. (The Beaverbrook Foundation)

From the beginning, the U.K. press baron and business mogul, born William Max Aitken and raised in New Brunswick, stocked the gallery with pieces from his own collection. Over the years, he continued to donate art, saying he wanted to honour the province where he got his start.

Aitken died in 1964. There were two Beaverbrook foundations — one British, one Canadian. Both claimed ownership  of different groups of paintings at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

That set off a long legal battle over who owned the paintings: the British foundation or the gallery.

In September 2010, the gallery won 85 of the 133 paintings  and the foundation was stuck with millions of dollars in legal bills.

Now it has been forced to sell the Cherkley estate to pay some of those bills.

The foundation was asking the equivalent of $32 million for the house and the 160-hectare property. It's not known if it got that price.

Reports say the buyer is a consortium of investors that wants to turn the property into a members-only golf course, with the house serving as a luxury hotel.

The sale of the legendary house is likely the final fallout from the costly art dispute.

A second dispute over a second group of paintings, between the gallery and the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation, is still before the courts.