Business

The BBC faces scrutiny over the sale of one of its historic London studios after the emergence of a rival – and possibly higher – bid from a consortium including the Hollywood film producer Matthew Vaughn.

Sky News has learnt that a syndicate comprising Mr Vaughn, Sir Len Blavatnik, the billionaire investor in Warner Music Group, and William Pears, the UK property company, has submitted an offer for the Maida Vale Studios which played host to The Beatles and David Bowie.

Sources said the group had offered £16m for the site – well above the £10m the BBC was reported in June to have agreed to sell the venue for.

The buyer is said to be Hans Zimmer, the German composer who created scores for films including Gladiator and The Lion King.

An announcement from the BBC about the deal to Mr Zimmer is anticipated at some point this month.

The value of his proposal could not be ascertained on Monday, and the BBC declined to comment on either the value of Mr Zimmer’s offer or whether it had received financially superior bids.

The Corporation said in 2018 that it would relocate to new, purpose-built studios in east London during the mid-2020s.

Mr Vaughn is one of the film industry’s best-known figures, having produced pictures including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and directed Kingsman: The Secret Service.

One person familiar with the consortium in which Mr Vaughn was participating said its members were “bemused” by the rejection of its offer.

“This is a team of leading industry professionals across recorded music, production companies and real estate,” the insider said.

He added that the group’s plan would be to maintain Maida Vale as a recording studio with additional investment to establish post-production facilities for the film, television and gaming.

It would also offer community access to the site, the person said, in order to reflect public interest in a facility whose history dates back its use as a roller-skating palace before its conversion into recording studios in 1933.

Image:
Matthew Vaughn, pictured at the New York Comic Con in 2019. Pic: AP

The venue, which consists of seven sound studios, has been home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and staged performances by artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Beyoncé.

Mr Vaughn’s consortium’s offer is understood to have included a two-week exchange period with limited conditions attached to it.

Its members also have links to the BBC in the form of Danny Cohen, the broadcaster’s former director of television who now runs Access Entertainment, a division of Sir Len’s Access Industries.

One media industry insider questioned whether there had been a “lack of transparency” from the BBC in its handling of the process.

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A BBC spokesman declined to comment on rival offers for the Maida Vale Studios, and it was unclear on Monday whether the Corporation planned to disclose the sale price at the time of the deal being signed.

At the time of the sale process being launched, the BBC said: “Maida Vale has been a fantastic home for countless legendary performances and will always be an important part of our history.

“But we want to continue to build on our musical heritage and deliver outstanding music making for generations to come in a building that is fit for purpose and future proofed – one that is more sustainable, more efficient and more flexible, and one that provides important creative and regeneration opportunities to the local area in East London.”

The sale of the site comes at a time when the BBC is facing pressure over its handling of complaints about the behaviour of the newsreader Huw Edwards and its reporting of the decision by Coutts to bar Nigel Farage as a client.

None of those involved in the Vaughn-Blavatnik bid would comment.

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