One of the key questions coming into the Cannes Film Festival is the state of film financiers in the global marketplace. Here’s a profile of one that’s been in the news of late because of Avatar and an ongoing UK tax investigation:
It’s a space-age white reception area, with primary coloured Op Art couches and banks of modish computers. This is the entryway to Ingenious Media, considered the most pukka of all British film financiers. Office space like this, right in the heart of London’s Soho media district, doesn’t come cheap. Then again, Ingenious’ chief executive and owner Patrick McKenna can afford it. According to the Sunday Times, McKenna has a personal fortune of £520 million – up by £200 million over the past year. This soft spoken former accountant’s Ingenious really got going in the late 1990s once the government’s tax break for film investment bedded down. The British film industry, which for years had struggled for cash, found itself awash in green stuff. Ingenious and its film partners alone invested £5 billion over the past 10 years. And just as Ingenious’ reputation was rising, so McKenna’s social stock was soaring, too. This son of a builder and a nurse has dined with the Queen, maintains a vacation home in St Tropez, is chairman of The Young Vic Theatre (there were gasps when he personally donated £1 million during a fundraiser), and was recently shortlisted to be chairman of the influential Arts Council London.
McKenna also has a reputation for being tough. And these are tough times for him and his company. In October 2006, Ingenious set up its own specialist media stockbroking arm which then had the plug pulled on it less than 2 years later. Now Ingenious Media Active Capital, Ingenious’ stock market-listed investment fund, is returning the bulk of its £60 million funds to backers after some bad investments. But that’s not all: Are the wheels wobbly on the film finance side, too?
The British press splashed the disturbing news that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has written to Ingenious’ investors demanding hundreds of thousands of pounds back. Read More »