Peter Palumbo, Baron Palumbo

Peter Garth Palumbo, Baron Palumbo (born 20 July 1935) is a property developer, art collector and architecture connoisseur.

Biography

Palumbo is the son of Rudolph Palumbo and his wife Elsie. Rudolph, who left school aged 12, himself became a wealthy property developer before World War II. He went to Eton College and Worcester College, Oxford, whence he received an M.A. in law. He married Denia Wigram in 1959 and they had one son and two daughters; after she died in 1986 he married Hayat Mroue (daughter of a Lebanese newspaper publisher) with whom he had another son and two daughters. His son from the first marriage, James "Jamie" Palumbo owns the Ministry of Sound nightclub and record label and is also a property developer. Jamie, who the Sunday Times Rich List 2004 estimates has a net worth of £136m, is a noted backer of the Labour Party (whereas Peter Palumbo is a Conservative Party peer). In 1995 Peter Palumbo was sued by Jamie on the grounds that he had been abusing the family trust fund to pay for artwork purchases.

In 1972 he bought the Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van der Rohe, to which Palumbo added the designer's furniture. He also expanded the grounds of the house by purchasing adjacent properties, and commissioned noted sculptors including Anthony Caro and Richard Serra to provide artworks for the grounds. Palumbo sold the property to a group of Mies conservationists in 2003 for a reported $7.5 million. Palumbo also owns Kentuck Knob [http://www.watsonschoice.com/GuideBook/DayTrips/Attractions/KentuckKnob.htm] , a private house built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the mountains just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Le Corbusier's Maisons Jaoul in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris.

Palumbo was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1978 until 1985, and chairman of the gallery's foundation between 1986 and 1987. He formerly served as a trustee for the Whitechapel Art Gallery, and is currently a trustee of the Natural History Museum and is the chairman of the Serpentine Gallery's board of trustees. He was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1988 until 1993, proposing that the Council sell off its art collection to settle the debts of the Royal Opera House and pay for its refurbishment. He was the former Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth and the Chairman of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

In 1994 Palumbo demolished the "Mappin & Webb" building in London and replaced it with No 1 Poultry, which provoked heated debate at the time.

Palumbo led the effort to repair St Stephen Walbrook church in central London, a 17th century building by Sir Christopher Wren which had been badly damaged during The Blitz. He also commissioned sculptor Henry Moore to build a white stone altar for the church (a controversial choice; critics described Moore's undulating white altar as being like "ripe camembert cheese"). The church, of which Palumbo's first wife was churchwarden, also contains a modern sundial on a black plinth; the plinth (which is inscribed "I count only the sunny hours") is Palumbo's memorial to Denia.

He was created a life peer on 4 February 1991 as Baron Palumbo of Walbrook in the City of London, after the neighbourhood around St Stephen Walbrook.

Royal Connections

Palumbo was a polo teammate of Prince Charles and the two were close until 1984 when the Prince publicly criticised Palumbo's plan to build an unrealised design by Mies van der Rohe near St.Paul's Cathedral that Charles described as "a glass stump". In the "War of the Waleses" Palumbo allied himself with Princess Diana helping to organise support during the divorce and in 1994 used a fundraising event at the Serpentine Gallery for Diana to make a public appearance on the same night that a sympathetic interview with Charles was to be screened on the BBC.

External links

* [http://www.geocities.com/londondestruction/mappin.html Mappin and Webb building at Bank - destroyed 1994]
* [http://195.38.64.125/POLITICS2/BIOG/ld_BIOGS/bio.asp?id=1851 Lord Palumbo's entry from Dod's Political Publishing]
* [http://www.nhm.ac.uk/info/trustees/p_palumbo.html Trustee of various museums and galleries including Natural History Museum]
* [http://www.shareholder.com/bid/news/20031006-119309.cfm Farnsworth House]
* [http://www.antiquesandthearts.com/CS-2004-08-10-12-04-51p2.htm More on the Farnsworth House]
* [http://www.touruk.co.uk/london_churches/ststephen_church1.htm Restoration of St. Stephen Walbrook church]
* [http://www.nal.vam.ac.uk/acgb/acgb-45.html Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1988/89]


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