Tussauds bid to control Millennium Wheel

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The Independent Online

The future of the London Eye has been cast into doubt after one of the three main shareholders put in a bid for overall control of Britain's most popular tourist attraction.

The future of the London Eye has been cast into doubt after one of the three main shareholders put in a bid for overall control of Britain's most popular tourist attraction.

Marks Barfield, the architects who designed the Eye, claim they are being put under pressure to sell part of their 33 per cent share by Tussauds Group, which owns the London waxworks and theme parks. They also claim the Eye is in jeopardy because of the interest rates charged on its debts.

David Marks and Julia Barfield have been trying for three years to renegotiate a £130m loan from British Airways ­ the third shareholder ­ because of interest payments charged at 25 per cent. The visitor attraction on London's south bank has attracted 3.8 million visitors and employs 300 people. It made a pre-tax profit last year of £15m and rakes in £38m in ticket sales, but the interest repayments on its debts are swallowing up all of the Eye's profits.

The other shareholders are unlikely to sell up to Tussauds. A spokesman for British Airways said: "Refinancing the debts has taken longer than expected as any proposals have to be agreed by all shareholders. But we are committed to the Eye and resolving these issues."

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