John Quested, chief executive of Goldcrest Films and TV, has been charged by London’s Serious Fraud Office with conspiracy to “cause loss to others by falsifying documents made or required for an accounting purpose.”
Quested, 57, who gained control of the multiple Oscar-winning production company after a management buyout in 1990, is charged along with his former boss George Walker and Walker’s chief financial officer Wilf Aquilina.
Quested was brought before Bow Street Magistrates Court in London last week and released on bail until June 4, when the defendants will appear in court.
The SFO charges refer to the accounts of Brent Walker Film and Theater Division — of which Quested was chief executive — Brent Walker Film Prods. and George Walker Television Prods., as well as the consolidated accounts of the Brent Walker Group, which is a publicly traded stock on the London stock exchange.
The charge alleges that the defendants, “with a view to gain for themselves or others” filed accounts “for the years ended Dec. 31, l984, l985, l986 and l 987, which to their knowledge were or might have been misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular, in that they overstated the pre-tax profits and total assets less current liabilities of the said companies during the said accounting years.”
Quested had not returned calls by press time, but his lawyer, David Cooper of London law firm Gouldens, issued a statement saying that “the management of Goldcrest expresses full faith and confidence in John Quested and his ability to operate the company as its chief executive.”
The charge against Quested is part of a much wider-ranging investigation into the business affairs of George Walker, who built his now-bankrupt leisure and entertainment empire in the 1980s.
Walker, a former boxer, made a number of film and television productions, including “The Stud” and “The Bitch”, both of which starred Joan Collins, and a video set of the complete Gilbert & Sullivan operas. None of the Brent Walker productions was an outstanding commercial or critical success. The company also operated as a video and theatrical distributor in the U.K. and had a foreign sales arm.
The Brent Walker film and TV businesses were folded into Goldcrest when Walker acquired the company in l987. Goldcrest’s classy output included “The Killing Fields,””The Mission” and “A Room With a View.” Quested was named the firm’s chief executive.
By 1989, Walker’s empire included yacht, marinas and property but, enmeshed in financial difficulties, he opened negotiations with Quested for a management buyout, which was completed in l990.
Last year, after various attempts at remedial financial engineering had failed, the Brent Walker empire finally collapsed, leading to the SFO investigation.
Since taking control of Goldcrest, Quested by his own admission has spent as much time on legal matters as in making films. He managed to wrest money out of MGM/UA for the video release of “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” but still faces suits from producers David Puttnam and Ismail Merchant alleging inadequate financial reporting and failure to pay monies owed from the distribution of their films “The Mission” and “A Room With a View.” Goldcrest has launched a countersuit against Merchant.