Monday 18 December 2017

Workers at two famous Dublin cinemas appeal over winding up hearing

EMPLOYEES of two of Dublin's best known cinemas have appealed to a High Court judge not to wind up a company operating the venues.

The Savoy in O'Connell Street, the city's oldest cinema, and the Screen in College Green, are owned by the Dublin Cinema Group (DCG), whose owners are locked in a bitter dispute.

Paul Anderson, chairman of DCG, is seeking to have the company wound up because relationships have irretrievably broken down and liquidation would be in the best interests of the company.

Paul Ward, secretary of the company, disputes this and has taken separate proceedings, due to be heard next July, seeking orders including restraining Mr Anderson from participating in the management and operation of the company. He claims a plan by Mr Anderson to separately open new cinemas in St Stephens Green Shopping Centre will be detrimental to the Savoy and Screen.

The High Court heard today mediation efforts yesterday had failed and the winding up hearing went ahead before Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

The judge was also told by Declan McGrath SC, for Mr Ward, that two letters had been written to on behalf of many of the Savoy and Screen's 38 employees urging the court not to liquidate the company.

The letters stated the workers, some of whom had spent their lives working in the cinemas, were worried for their futures because if they were made redundant getting other employment would be difficult. They were also worried that the Savoy, opened in 1929, as O'Connell Street's last cinema, would close.

Mr McGrath said the letters should be taken into account by the court which is entitled to consider all issues in deciding on a winding up.

Mr Anderson had failed to discharge the onus on him to show there was deadlock to justify winding up as required under companies legislation, he said.

An open offer, worth €17.5m, had been made by their side to Mr Anderson to buy out his share but he would prefer to wind it up rather than accept that offer, Mr McGrath said. If he did so, he would still be free to compete with DCG.

Opening the case earlier, Michael Cush SC, for Mr Anderson, said DCG was a profitable company which in the event of liquidation would mean it could be bought by either his client or Mr Ward or by a third party.

A claim by Mr Ward that the liquidation was an attempt to scupper competition when Stephen's Green opens did not withstand scrutiny because Mr Anderson had offered, as part of the liquidation, to include his interest in Stephen's Green as an asset of the company, Mr Cush said.

Mr Cush also said his side rejected the claim that the winding up petition was an attempt to stymie Mr Ward's pending action.

The hearing continues.

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