Brothers in £12m deal for Shepperton film studios bought by Scott bros

British directors Ridley and Tony Scott invest Hollywood expertise in m ajor boost for UK industry. Marianne Macdonald reports
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The Independent Online
The British film director brothers Ridley and Tony Scott bought Shepperton film studios yesterday for £12m. The deal is expected to give a big boost to the British film industry.

The brothers, who are based in the United States, have produced between them some of the most successful films of recent years. Ridley, 56, directed Alien, filmed at Shepperton, Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise; Tony, 51, directed Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II and Days of Thunder.

They now plan to use their Hollywood contacts to lure American producers and directors to film at Shepperton, and also intend to use the studios, near Twickenham in Middlesex, as a base for their own movies.

They will be helped by the favourable exchange rate with the US, which has made it 25 per cent cheaper to film in Britain.

London-based Candover Investments, which specialises in company buy-outs, put up £7m of the £12m purchase price, with £4m from Barclays Bank and £1m from the Scotts. Contributions were also made by Shepperton's management and Intermedia Film Equities of California, which specialises in mergers and acquisitions. The extra money will provide working capital.

The studios were sold by the US corporation Lee International, formerly Lee Electric, which bought Shepperton in 1984. The lighting equipment supplier, which also owns the camera manufacturer Panavision, is thought to be trying to recover from over-extending its interests.

Shepperton operated profitably under Lee International's ownership, but was kept under tight financial constraints. That should change in the next five years: the Scotts plan to spend at least £10m on upgrading.

Job losses are not expected. A recent survey of Shepperton's management structure is said to have impressed the Scotts.

The brothers' film contacts will also help to generate business at Shepperton. They jointly own RSA, the London-based television commercial production company, and a Hollywood production company.

Neither would speak to the media yesterday, although Ridley Scott said in a statement: "I am particularly pleased to confirm that we shall be continuing with the studio's first-class management team, led by Denis Carrigan. We have been working together on our plans to extend the facility."

More than 600 films have been made at the studio, including classics such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Colditz, Oliver! and The Guns of Navarone.

More recent productions include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Judge Dredd, a new film starring Sylvester Stallone.

When the brothers announced their intention to buy the studio in September, Ridley Scott admitted: "I've been shooting there for 27 years. The sale is almost nostalgic, but I don't want it to be a nostalgic relationship. I want it to be a business relationship."

Nigel Sinclair, of Intermedia, one of the companies involved with the Scotts in the takeover, said yesterday: "This is a cutting-edge deal. British film-makers who have achieved top success in Hollywood are bringing their expertise back to the UK's most venerable studio."

Andrew Patrick, chief executive of the British Film Commission, said: "It's obviously good news to have attracted people of the stature of the Scott brothers. Buying Shepperton is a vote of confidence in the UK."