Mickey Mouse house-hunts in SE10

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The Independent Online
WALT DISNEY is considering buying the Millennium Dome to turn the Greenwich site into a Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck theme park after the year 2000.

The multi-billion dollar American entertainment business has asked for financial details about the Dome with a view to making a formal bid when it is put up for sale early next year.

Disney executives have already visited London to discuss the Dome with Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. They were impressed by both the contents of the Greenwich exhibition and the giant structure itself.

Mr Mandelson also met executives from Walt Disney when he visited Disney World in Florida earlier this year.

Sources close to the project confirmed that Disney was one of several companies which had made "preliminary inquiries" about the Dome. The Government will invite formal bids in January and ministers are hoping to raise at least pounds 140m from the sale.

It is understood that Disney is considering building a film studio, with tours of some of its most famous sets - including The Jungle Book, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pocahontas - on the site. It does not want to build a more conventional theme park as this would create a rival to Euro Disney in Paris.

Representatives from the New Millennium Experience Company, which is organising the Greenwich exhibition, have flown to the United States to discuss the project with Disney.

Judson Green, president of Walt Disney Attractions has been advising Mr Mandelson on how to co-ordinate a huge exhibition in the run-up to 2000.

Around six companies and consortia have expressed interest in buying the Dome when the Millennium exhibition is removed in January 2001.

The Hollywood film studio Warner Brothers is also considering the site. The company has recently been scouting around Britain for an accessible location to build a theme park.

Another potential bidder is Ogden, the US exhibitions company which runs Manchester Stadium and other theme parks and arenas in the US, including the Walt Disney Anaheim Pond Arena in California.