Who's Suing Whom: Stiff upper lip causes Yorkshire TV trouble

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The Independent Online
A ROW has broken out between Chrysalis Films and Yorkshire Television over money made out of the recent hit independent film Stiff Upper Lips, a satire on British attitudes at the turn of the century.

The story starts in February 1996 when the maker of the film, Ivory Hall of St Johns Street, London, appointed Chrysalis as the exclusive sales agent of the film throughout the world for 25 years. Central to the agreement was a clause that allowed Chrysalis to claim back its distribution expenses. So far, Chrysalis has run up a pounds 232,469.61 expenses bill, of which only pounds 65,000 has been repaid.

Under the distribution deal Yorkshire Television agreed to collect money from distributors around the world and funnel it through to Chrysalis and Ivory Hall. Chrysalis claims this part of the deal has now "wholly failed", and that Yorkshire is refusing to provide financial details of the sums it collected.

Last week Chrysalis started legal action against Yorkshire for the disputed money, over pounds 167,000, as well as a complete run-down of what has happened to money received by Yorkshire from the sale of the film around the world. In a bizarre co-incidence, one of the parties to the distribution deal was Nigel Wray, the property tycoon and boss of Burford. Although he is named on Chrysalis's writ as a "defendant", the film company is not seeking money from him.

THE BLIZZARD of litigation cases set off by the collapse of Robert Feld's Resort Hotels group four years ago, with debts of pounds 90m, may finally be coming to court. Around six shareholders' groups and creditor institutions are trying to get some money back through the courts. There are more than a dozen writs in circulation relating to the affair.

Last week Invesco Enterprise Trust had to reissue a writ it brought in April for technical reasons, as the events the writ relate to are getting near the six-year limit for taking legal action. Invesco is claiming damages from the liquidator of Resort Hotels, Ernst & Young, Mr Feld and his professional advisers. The claim is based on a prospectus for a rights issue by Resort Hotels published on 30 April 1992 by Feld, who forged the figures to make the business look more successful. The rights issue aimed to raise pounds 20.6m.

Feld is currently serving a six-year sentence for fraud. In his original trial Feld was found guilty of lying about the hotel chain's financial position, forging documents and boosting a profits forecast to back up the rights issue. Two years' later the company collapsed leaving over 500 small shareholders out of pocket, almost all of whom are suing for compensation.

Feld was described by the trial judge, Mr Justice Zucker, as "a man of quite appalling dishonesty". Feld's advisers, who are named on Invesco's writ, are Barclays de Zoete Wedd, his broker, and Coopers & Lybrand, his auditor. Bank of Scotland London Nominees is also being sued since it held Resort's shares on Invesco's behalf. Coopers & Lybrand is being sued by different groups of creditors and shareholders.

This year PricewaterhouseCoopers, as the accountancy firm is now known, had a limited victory in court when it attempted to "strike out" a claim from more than 200 Resort shareholders. The case, however, rumbles on and Invesco's lawyers expect their own case may reach court in 18 months to two years' time.

Feld will probably be out of jail well before the legal rows have been settled.

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