Secret Dome report delays talks over sale

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Talks about the sale of the Millennium Dome to a Japanese bank are being delayed because a secret report that reveals serious financial problems at the attraction is being withheld from the buyer.

Talks about the sale of the Millennium Dome to a Japanese bank are being delayed because a secret report that reveals serious financial problems at the attraction is being withheld from the buyer.

The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) has refused to hand the report over to Dome Europe, which is owned by Nomura International, on the basis that it can be released only to investigators from the National Audit Office.

The NMEC's decision has raised fears among Dome Europe executives that the report by auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers could contain previously undisclosed financial or legal problems affecting the £758m attraction in Greenwich, south-east London.

David James, the City troubleshooter who was appointed as the NMEC's executive chairman on Tuesday, disclosed that the audit found the company had overlooked at least £28m in costs associated with closing the Dome after 31 December 2000.

It found that the NMEC had no complete "assets register" of who owned what property at the Dome, or full details about the outstanding costs linked to 2,800 contracts at the site. The audit also led to the Dome's visitor target being cut to 4.5 million paying visitors, down from 6 million.

These discoveries shocked Dome Europe, which sought urgent talks with Mr James about the new figures. The company, which has bid £105m to buy the Dome, feared it weakened the financial viability of its plans to spend £800m building a high-tech "urban entertainments resort" on the site.

Mr James met Guy Hands, the Nomura executive handling the Dome Europe bid, late last week but would not hand over a copy of the auditors' report. Dome Europe was given selected material from the document, and has yet to see an assets or property register.

Despite the dispute, Mr James wrote to NMEC's 2,000 staff yesterday reassuring them that their year-long jobs at the site were safe.

Comments