Jonathan Stuart-Brown for Save The British Film Industry.
The crisis is now such that only developing a strong genuine British based competitor in provision of sound stages to the film industry will now work.
Pinewood Shepperton were two fillm studios until 2002. Since then they are property companies in the UK owned mainly by property developers looking to cash in on property prices in west London.
They are happy to use contacts with Hollywood producers looking to place big budget productions in sound stages, to go elsewhere than the UK – to China, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, dominican Republic, Atlanta Georgia for a fee. This takes all the cast and crew jobs outside the UK. In a few years this will show up and be too late to reverse. Yes a few established faces will still get jobs abroad and Oscars, but the next generation of cast and crew will not get on the ladder.
The BBc has been woeful in scrutinising this. Then again if you share a chairman with Pinewood Shepperton, or their biggest shareholder is your landlord…..! Or you are Pinewood’s biggest customer, well maybe you do not want to try to do scrutiny.
The BBC still has a few outstanding national news TV journalists who excel in intelligence, research, integrity and good manners. These include the superb Hugh Pym and indeed Sophie Raworth. It also includes Andrew Neil.
However, the BBC as a whole has proved woeful in its coverage on Pinewood Shepperton plc and Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios.
In November 2007 it ran over thirty stories in one day (and over two hours full coverage) of a Pinewood Studios press release which it ran as a done deal – and for which The BBC was chief cheerleader. The whole deal was not done, has now been completely discredited. The BBC National TV News naturally prefer to believe it never happened.
The BBC is still so far in bed with people they should not be that it should disturb even their greatest supporter or if you prefer, believer.
But to a summary of part of the noble campaign which was at least partially successful in October 2009 and January 2012 against overwhelming legal, political lobbying and BBC High Command opposition.
We saved The South Bucks Greenbelt, exposed the bogus nature of the expansion plan, highlighted that the British Film Industry inward investment magnet was in real urgent danger of being concreted over for non-film industry use, and that the owners were now batting for several specific film industries in other nations and not for jobs based in Britain. They made fools of The BFI. They made fools and knaves of The UK Film Council. They made fools of the OFT. In the latter case it was because they would not visit Pinewood, Shepperton or 33 000 acres in the North-West (and thus believed it was tiny). In the former cases it was because they were dazzled by a tour and incapable of asking basic questions. But the biggest culprit must be BBC National TV News because all these people would have been briefed correctly if the BBC had done even one accurate report.
Who would have thought in 1982 that people would believe RTV News over The BBC ? How standards fall and new people show standards can rise.
We warned repeatedly that The Pinewood Shepperton PLC share price were highly vulnerable to a takeover and the global brand name can be sold to a foreign competitor, and the land they are on sold for a car park, supermarket distribution centre or housing at huge profit to an asset stripper AND huge loss to The UK.
The company is now delisted from The Stock Market, taken private (which inevitably means it will operate much more secretly and no longer have a legal duty to disclose information on its plans) and may overnight be sold to well…..literally anyone.
It is just one huge gamble that the next buyer of Pinewood Studios and of Shepperton Studios has any interest whatsoever in film making as opposed to say a very lucrative West London car park or warehouse complex.
The January 2012 failure to obtain planning permission in The Public Inquiry to build over £2 billion worth of houses on greenbelt land can accelerate this scenario.
The takeover offer from John Whittaker of Peel Pegasus merely values the company, brand names and land at a very modest price which a few years film Lottery Money ringfenced can easily pay for. Certainly over 50% of the shares can be paid for by the Lottery Money Ring Fenced for The Film Industry. This could have been taken into public ownership as a national asset, or at least public-private partnership. It is a vital strategic national asset. The Chinese Government described it as ‘soft power’ in foreign policy. They are correct.
The capitalisation of Pinewood Shepperton PLC shares and ownership of assets (brandname, 75 year goodwill and reputation plus land) has generally been under £60 million from 2009 to early 2011 and only kept this high by the second biggest shareholder making big purchases since October 2009 until they had to sell a very significant holding to mitigate losses on JJB shares.
It is staggering that the fate of JJB Sport Shops has been so decisive in the destiny of 007 James Bond’s traditional film home.
It should not have been allowed to be such a mess. The vital physical film studio should not be so vulnerable. This can cost over 30 000 film industry jobs out of 36 000 film industry jobs in the UK.
The second biggest shareholder in 2010 and 2011 and also the highly reputable Aberdeen Asset Management (which owned 10% of Pinewood and Shepperton Studios) in 2011 publically calling for The Chairman to go as this potentially fantastic business is in a real mess. The very emotive language at the 2010 and 2011 AGM was real box office. 2011 even more than 2010. This is why The Chair kicked the media out and why the hapless BBC Art, Film and Media News reporters missed what was going on. Their capacity extends merely to repeating Pinewood Shepperton press releases. The share price and dividends way below floatation price and 2007 price. The Board strategy is repeatedly failing except in bamboozling the numpties who cover film industry stories for The BBC and are dazzled by a tour of Pinewood and a good lunch. Understandably these shareholders finally had enough and gave up on this Board and sold off their shareholdings.
Almost anyone could have muscled in on the act by buying shares. The buyer may be concerned abut the UK Film Industry or utterly hostile. It has all been left to chance.
A potential positive move is jeweller Warren James Holdings buying 27% of shares with John Whittaker’s Peel Group having almost all the remainder. Warren James seem to have a longterm commitment to UK based film making and the glamour it can bring to their core business. But they are free to sell them as is The Peel Group if their much wider business empires ever need cash for any purpose, including repayment of loans.
They could both sell tomorrow and Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios gravelled within months.
All the film contracts and film jobs could be transfered to China, Canada, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Germany or Atlanta Georgia where Pinewood Shepperton LA sales office now take a commission to persuade Hollywood producers to go there (and get ready for Brazil and India).
Many Property developers, asset strippers and non-UK film studio competitors have a strong financial incentive to buy the company from Peel and Warren James and close Pinewood as a film factory for hire facility.
Such a disaster would close The British Film Industry and create 90% unemployment among creative and blue collar film industry workers.
Our proposal for The Government to intervene – at least with many cities and towns across the UK make the leading shareholders an offer of free lands, EU monies they can not refuse to play ball – and relocate this expansion to Wiltshire, North Oxfordshire and The West Midlands and thereafter other UK regions in the best interests of : a constantly expanding, secure robust UK film industry; the very best interests of a regenerated glamorous newly confident West Midlands; the very best interests of a hard won blissful status quo in Iver Heath, South Bucks; the very best interests of the Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios brandnames which are vital strategic assets for the UK.