My Biggest Mistake: Be careful where you place trust

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The Independent Online
Brian Cosgrove, took an art degree in Manchester, joined Granada as a graphic designer and became a programme director. In 1976 he set up an animation film company for Thames Television with fellow artist Mark Hall. They now run Cosgrove Hall Films, which created `Dangermouse', `Count Duckula' and, more recently, `The Animal Shelf'

MY BIGGEST mistake was to be too trusting. Mark and I had been through art school together. We were working with a holding company that owned our building and had a 50 per cent stake in us. We had a puppet film studio in the basement, a commercials studio on the ground floor and made a drawn television feature for Granada on the first floor.

We felt it might be time to start to expand when we had about 60 people working for us. One of the directors of the holding company said to us: "If you give 1 per cent more to the holding company, it will fund you to expand." We did, but the expansion didn't happen. Effectively, the holding company had 51 per cent control but money started to get tight. Its other divisions weren't going well, so funds from us were being milked which was making it tough for us.

We stuck it for 12 months then we blew up when the holding company wanted our staff to take half salaries. We said: "You can have the company - we're leaving." We left all the films we had made but we were able to carry most of the people with us. It's not something I've regretted. We knew if we fought the case it would have involved solicitors' fees. The company was theirs and we just had to walk away from it. We felt we could always go back into TV as graphic designers.

When you start in business you believe you can trust people. We realised we needed to be in association with a group that wanted films made, and would leave that to us. If you are a film-maker and a storyteller, you need a partner, otherwise, you're on the road trying to drum up business. Fortunately, that week Granada and Thames asked us to set up companies for them. We realised if we owned a company 100 per cent we'd turn into businessmen. In fact, our craft was understanding how to tell stories. So we had 16 wonderful years with Thames till it lost its franchise in 1990. Our new company is part of United News & Media Group.

Rachelle Thackray

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