Tuesday 13 November 2018

Final cut: legal battle for Irish cinemas ends in a draw

?Wards and Andersons divide a €30m empire

Tom Lyons

THE final credits are set to roll on the epic business relationship between the Ward and Anderson families after they agreed last week to split €30.85m worth of cinemas between them including Dublin's Savoy Cinema and the Cork Omniplex.

The two families settled out of court a long-running dispute over their joint ownership of some of Ireland's best-known cinemas controlled by a company called the Dublin Cinema Group.

A binding heads of terms agreement was signed on Thursday to divide up the assets ending a business relationship between the two families that goes back to 1948.

The Anderson family will take over the popular Cork Omniplex, which has 13 screens and is valued at €15m.

The Ward family in turn will control the Savoy Cinema on O'Connell Street and take total control of the Screen Cinema in Dublin city centre, the Omniplex in Santry and a cinema in Tullamore, Co Offaly. The Savoy is valued at €8.3m with the Andersons' shareholding in the remaining cinemas valued at roughly €7m.

The European premiere of Lincoln took place in the Savoy earlier this month and was attended by Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis.

The transaction is set to disclose on February 28. The dispute between both families was so bitter it went to the High Court before they agreed to settle their differences.

Both families separately own other cinemas outright prior to the carve-up of their jointly owned cinemas. Between them they were easily the biggest players in their industry in Ireland.

Following the transaction, the Anderson family will own 23 cinemas in their Omniplex Holdings group in both the Republic and the North of Ireland. The Wards will have 12 cinemas in their Irish Multiplex Cinemas (IMC) group based in the Republic. IMC's other cinemas are in Dun Laoghaire, Tallaght, Athlone, Ballymena, Dundalk, Killarney, Mullingar and Thurles.

Paul Ward and Paul Anderson, who are the sons of the co-founders of the Ward Anderson Group, Leo Ward and Kevin Anderson, will run each of the cinema chains separately.

Group co-founder Leo Ward was a talented League of Ireland footballer, signing for Manchester City in 1939. However, three months after signing, England declared war on Germany and the FA had to suspend activities for the duration of the war. After coming home to Ireland , he went into the cinema business with his half-brother Kevin Anderson, an accountant.

In court documents, Paul Anderson said the dispute between both families went back to 1997 and a row over the development of a new cinema in Dun Laoghaire.

In 2003 matters escalated when the Wards abandoned their historic joint office on Upper Abbey Street in Dublin to relocate to a new office in Dun Laoghaire.

More recently the Andersons' plans to develop a cinema on the top floor of St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in Dublin has caused concerns for the Wards about the impact of this cinema on their once jointly owned ventures.

Paul Anderson hopes to recreate the magic of The Green cinema, which closed 25 years ago, and was the first cinema he managed.

The Ward and Anderson families were responsible for bringing some of the best-known movies to Ireland, famously making a packet by signing up to bring in the James Bond films to a glamour-starved audience.

Sunday Indo Business

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