Walker had great charisma, court told

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GEORGE WALKER, the former chairman and chief executive of the Brent Walker leisure empire, was a charismatic figure who was 'well-respected and liked' in the television industry, Southwark Crown Court was told yesterday.

Former associate Hamish Gibson, a film and distribution company director, told the jury that he had felt that the 65-year-old tycoon represented a great opportunity for British film and television in the US.

He saidthe former boxing champion, who built up a betting shop and film empire, had enormous guts when it came to business.

Mr Gibson, who was appearing as a witness for the prosecution, worked for Mr Walker's fast-expanding film and television operation by selling syndication and distribution rights in North America. He told the court that he thought he had a lot to look forward to when he first joined Brent Walker in 1986.

'Mr Walker was a very well-respected and liked member of the television establishment. I felt a combination of his flair, and subsequently his ability to perform financially, would have created a great opportunity for British film and television over there,' he said during cross-examination.

In his opinion Mr Walker, accused of stealing pounds 17m from his company during an alleged six- year bogus profit fraud, had 'enormous charisma in the market and enormous guts in the sort of projects he was doing'.

Mr Gibson, paid a dollars 1,000-a- month retainer during his 18 months with the group, said everything went well at first.

But just as a half-million-dollar rights deal was about to be clinched with a US company for the British film Return Of The Soldier - a transaction he regarded as 'the sale of the century' - it was scuppered by film director John Quested, then one of Mr Walker's associates.

The trial continues today.