Two of London’s top TV and advertising tycoons have secured £500 million of institutional investment to build Britain’s first network of world-class film studios and capitalise on the Netflix-led boom in production.
The Evening Standard has learned that Piers Read, producer of The Inbetweeners and Peep Show, and Jeremy Rainbird, the adman who launched Bafta-winning Merman have started with the takeover of the historic Twickenham Studios and have plans for around six major studio complexes around the UK.
They plan to invest £50 million in Twickenham, updating the stages and regenerating the post-production facilities and providing modern office space aimed at businesses in the creative industry.
Their company, The Creative District Improvement Company, has also applied for planning to build a £148 million new studio complex in Kent near the Ashford International train station, which will have four large stages totalling 80,000 square feet, plus a hotel and apartments for film crews to stay in.
The pair have tied up with colleges to provide in-studio education and training for local youngsters keen to get into the film business.
Another hoped-for site is in Liverpool, and the team is interested in taking over the running of the troubled Dagenham Studios project. They bid for Dagenham with the financial backing of CBRE’s investment arm but the council instead chose a US operator, which later walked away from the project.
Both executives have property experience as well as TV expertise. Read previously developed Wimbledon Studios and Rainbird has developed offices in Hackney.
Read said: “Traditionally, investors have considered studios too risky, but we’ve had a lifetime in the industry and understand what producers need. We can show developers how we can make it work for them and bring huge economic benefits to the community.”
British Airways’ pension fund led the Twickenham Studios buyout, and Read and Rainbird said they had secured funding from other major institutions for further deals totalling £500 million.
Kent developer Quinn Estates is teaming up with other backers for the Ashford project.
“Britain is the world leader for film-making and the industry is bringing the country more employment, more GDP, but it does not get the government support it should do,” said Rainbird.
Twickenham Studios was bought eight years ago by hotels entrepreneur Sunny Vohra, a film fanatic who saved it from demolition and nursed it back to health. Established in 1903, it is one of the oldest film studios in the world and was recently credited with an Oscar for the sound on the Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody and a Bafta for sound engineering and mastering on Sam Mendes’ hit 1917.
Vohra will remain as chairman and co-owner of Twickenham.