Cult filmmaker HandMade lists on AIM

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The Independent Online

The film company set up by the late George Harrison, which made comic classics such as Withnail & I and the Life of Brian, is to gain an AIM listing in a deal that values it at £14.75m.

HandMade Group, which is run by Patrick Meehan, the former manager of the band Led Zeppelin, is being reversed into a listed film-rights company controlled by Mr Meehan's family trust. Equator Group is funding the deal with a massive share placing that will hugely dilute existing investors. Its shares closed up 1.5p at 18.5p.

One of the first tasks for the enlarged group, which will change its name to HandMade, will be to turn Withnail & I into a West End stage show. Mr Meehan has high hopes he can persuade Jude Law to play Withnail, the drunken star of the film that earned Richard E Grant a cult following on university campuses across the UK.

Equator is issuing 80,000 new shares at 32p to raise £10m before expenses. It will use the proceeds to pay off the film company's £6m debt and provide some working capital. Mr Meehan, who will chair the company, said surplus cash would be spent on acquisitions.

HandMade was set up by the former Beatles guitarist in 1978. Other films to its credit include Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday. It first forged links with Equator in 1999 when Mr Meehan's family trust, Cartier Investments, acquired HandMade and took a stake in the film-rights company.

Mr Meehan, who counts Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne as his close neighbours in Los Angeles, said his experience in the US would help HandMade to exploit the vast North American market. "The big money is made in America," he said.

HandMade also owns the worldwide rights to a children's book character called Eloise, who was based on Liza Minnelli's lonely childhood. Hugely popular in the 1950s, Eloise vanished from the literary scene until HandMade acquired her four years ago. She lives again in two Disney films starring Julie Andrews and two new books.

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