Elstree Studios Razed, But No Hell Is Raised

A minor part of the Brent Walker empire but a major part of British film culture, Elstree Studios, has been turned into a building site.

The oldest working film studio in the U.K., and the home of such milestone pictures as the “Star Wars” and the Indiana Jones series, is being cut in half, with one part going to the Tesco supermarket chain and the other being redeveloped by Walker as a tv production facility.

The last time someone sought to tamper with Elstree all hell broke loose as industry leaders wrote furious letters to politicians and the press. That was when the studio was owned by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of the Cannon Group. That barely a murmur has been raised this time indicates the demoralization of the U.K. production sector.

Walker, who paid £38 million ($72 million) for Elstree two years ago, is believed to have wrung $38 million out of Tesco for what is in effect the more valuable half of the lot. But Walker first must clear the site and build new access roads.

Walker also must rebuild the remainder of the site to accommodate new stages, administration buildings and postproduction facilities.

Following the management buyout of Goldcrest Films & Television, it looks as though another part of the Brent Walker empire could become the subject of an MBO attempt.

The facilities division, which includes the Roger Cherrill postproduction house, Cherry Video, Rotocolor and Goldcrest Sound Facilities, is the domain of m.d. Barry Chattington.

Walker, who has promised shareholders and banks that he will dispose of further peripheral businesses to reduce his debt burden, is willing to sell.

But, as ever, he wants to drive a hard bargain. Even if a reasonable price were agreed on, Chattington still would have to find a backer to put up the money.

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