An Ealing tragedy in the making as receivers move in at film studios

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THE FUTURE of Ealing Studios, birthplace of classic British comedies such as the Whisky Galore and Kind Hearts and Coronets, was last night thrown into doubt after receivers were called in by the company's bankers, writes Gail Counsell.

While the receiver, Alan Price of the accountants Casson Beckman, said he hoped to dispose of the business as a going concern, he was unable to rule out the possibility that the site would be sold for redevelopment. 'Clearly any receiver dealing with a commercial site has to look at all the possibilities,' he said.

The move follows the collapse last week of BBRK, the scenery, lighting and special effects company owned by David Bill. BBRK rescued Ealing from closure in 1992, buying the studios from the BBC for pounds 7.5m.

BBRK has debts of more than pounds 6.5m and last week Royal Bank of Scotland, its principal banker, appointed Nigel Voot, of accountants Coopers & Lybrand, as receiver to all the group companies apart from the studios.

That triggered a similar move by Close Brothers, bankers to Ealing.

The situation is complicated because a separate BBRK management company organised the contracts for the film studios and employed the staff there.

Mr Price said he was hopeful he would find an industry buyer. 'I've already been approached by a couple of large players in the film and television business - word gets around fast.'

Around half the 40 staff employed at Ealing have been made redundant by Mr Voot, who is responsible for the studios' management company. Mr Voot promised 'business as usual' while an assessment was made of assets. He said he hoped to find a single purchaser for the group.

The most recent set of accounts, for the year ended March 1993, show the studios had total assets of pounds 4.98m and long-term creditors were owed pounds 4.94m.

(Photographs omitted)