Although the Saatchi Gallery had already announced plans to move to a new home near Sloane Square in 2007, yesterday's ruling by the High Court could mean months of homelessness.
The judge, Sir Donald Rattee, upheld claims by the owners and landlords of the building that the gallery had continually breached the terms of its lease. He ruled that the gallery had forfeited that lease because of its "deliberate disregard" of the rights of the landlords, Cadogan Leisure Investments, and owners, Shirayama Shokusan.
Mr Saatchi had made unsubstantiated allegations of serious misconduct against the landlords yet "chose not to give evidence", Sir Donald noted. In a row over security guards, Mr Saatchi threatened a Cadogan executive Jit Chauhan, shouting "a stream of abuse in his face and threatening to have him 'seen to' if he crossed him".
The Japanese company claimed that, within weeks of opening in April 2003, the gallery began to exceed the rights in its lease, installing works of art in areas for which it was not paying rent. A two-for-one ticket offer was also in breach of agreed terms as Cadogan calculated its rent on ticket prices.
Mr Chauhan, managing director of Cadogan Entertainment Investment Ltd, said they were delighted that the judge had agreed with everything they had said. "We have had a difficult time attempting to deal with Mr Saatchi and his staff and are relieved that the gallery will be leaving County Hall," he said.
"Mr Saatchi chose to fight us through the press, alleging that we were to blame for his apparent decision to leave County Hall for Chelsea. Instead of trading insults through the press, we chose to use the law to uphold our rights.
"This case perhaps shows that, no matter how much influence you think you have, you cannot break the law repeatedly and get away with it indefinitely." He said proceedings were commenced only reluctantly after talks broke down, despite attempts by the record producer Pete Waterman, a Cadogan director, to broker a compromise.
Lawyers said notice of eviction would take time because the gallery had said it may appeal and because of the size of some of the exhibits which must be moved.
A spokesman for Mr Saatchi said: "The forfeiture issue was based on the landlord's claim that two-for-one ticket offers breached the terms of the lease. The landlord has taken advantage of this technicality to bring our lease to an end. We're delighted now to have the opportunity to concentrate our efforts on our new, larger gallery at the Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea."
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