22nd February: PY not a French Knight in shining armour after all! Millennium Dome chairman David James puts the boot in, saying plans by PY to buy the Dome do not add up. He said that although the former Dome boss was a "great guy" to whom all at the Dome owed an enormous amount, he still had things to learn about commerciality.

James said: "All we are getting at the moment is puff, ... the government cannot be expected to give P-Y a sweet-heart deal on a green field opportunity to develop this until somebody has said precisely what it is that he is going to do and how the numbers work out at the end,". He added "P-Y's strength was running the affairs of the Dome. He has burgeoning ideas but he's a young man who still has a little way to go in terms of bringing together the threads of commerciality." He said the Dome had been the victim of "one dud financial estimate after another" and if Mr Gerbeau was serious about his plans he would have to carry the acquisition costs of the Dome, the development cost and the running costs until it had achieved economic viability. "You are talking about several years and some hundreds of millions of pounds and there is a huge credibility problem. James added that anyone wanting to run the Dome along its previous lines would "drown in a barrel of red ink".

20th February: More Arrests in ongoing Fraud Inquiry Two more people have been arrested over allegations of fraud at the Dome. A man and a woman in their 30s were detained in Liverpool, bringing to six the number of arrests over the suspected fraud. Property was also seized from two homes and a business in Wavertree. They were released on bail to return in June.

The fraud squad are pursuing four seperate enquiries involving the award of contracts totalling tens of millions of pounds.

16th February: From one publicly funded corporation to another ? If the rumours are true, the Dome looks like stumbling from one publicly funded corporation to another. BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is in discussion with partners Tussaud's and Grosvenor, and plans to re-open the Dome as a visitor attraction based on BBC television characters, although no details have been released. The BBC have said the it's bid would not involve spending licence payers' money and any financial input would most likely come from revenue generated by BBC Worldwide. But we've heard all about the Dome not spending taxpayer's money, see Dome Words.

So what could a BBC-run Dome have? Assuming it goes for its strongest brands - it could include zones based around EastEnders, the Teletubbies, Bob the Builder and the Tweenies. Other possibilities include Walking with Dinosaurs, Top of the Pops and Top Gear.

No room in there for Eldorado, then ?

15th February: A French Knight in shining armour..
PY is thrilled that he now has the chance to enter the bidding process for the Dome. He said: "Today is the day the Dome was given a second chance". "I am thrilled and very impressed by this courageous and very difficult move by the government. We're now moving full blow. We have got the vision, the creativity and a coherent business plan and now all we need is a new direction from the government." He continued "We are the only ones who have a vision for the Dome as a public venue, we want to keep it as a public venue and that's why we are favoured by the British public." He has made it clear that his consortium, to be called the New Dome Partners, is only interested in the Dome itself and not in surrounding land.

Read more about PY in Who's Who

15th February: Disaster Strikes ...... The government is re-opening the bidding for the Dome, because the Legacy consortium has failed to meet its deadline (guideline ?) for a contract to be signed. This is the second time that a preferred bidder has failed to come up with a contract. Charlie Falconer said time had run out for Legacy and the government had decided to throw the bidding process open to other interested parties. He said Legacy had been made preferred bidder in November on condition that it was ready to exchange contracts by 14 February and satisfy various conditions. "Whilst they have made great progress, they haven't satisfied all those conditions" he said. The government had received a total of 72 expressions of interest since Nomura withdrew its Dome bid last year.

John Prescott said, in a Commons written answer, that the existing competition had been "terminated" as Legacy's exclusivity has expired. The government would like to "openly test the market", he said, and there had been "considerable expressions of interest" from other parties. However, no deadline has been set so far for the completion of any deal.

Legacy is now reviewing its bid and its chief executive, Robert Bourne, said: "We are both surprised and disappointed by the government's announcement. I am afraid I will now have to meet my colleagues and management team over the next few days to discuss whether Legacy continues its interest in the bidding process."

So, what went wrong? When the Japanese investment bank Nomura pulled out in November, the Legacy consortium was the only other bidder. Legacy was runner-up in the original bidding process. Fronted by Labour supporter and property developer Robert Bourne, its major investor was the Irish-based property company Treasury Holdings. Treasury Holdings' co-owners, Richard Barrett and John Ronan, had accumulated an estimated 1bn portfolio of property interests in Ireland and they had an 80% stake in Legacy. Legacy had plans for a high-tech business park which would create 14,000 jobs and be profitable within three years. In November it received preferred bidding status, but doubts were raised from the very beginning that it had the credibility or the financial clout to raise the 125m purchase price or attract the high profile clients needed to make it a success.

Press reports suggested the Bank of Scotland, which was underwriting the bid, was also having doubts about the viability. When Legacy first bid for the Dome in January 2000, dot.com stocks were still on the up but November, when it acquired preferred bidder status, stock prices had collapsed. In January 2001 the Legacy consortium was hit by further controversy after revelations that Robert Bourne gave a 33,000 donation to the Labour Party after the Nomura deal collapsed. Labour said the money was the last instalment of a 100,000 donation pledged to the party before the Dome was built.

Questions about Treasury Holding's probity were even raised in the Irish parliament, the Dail. Richard Barrett reacted angrily and in late January he publicly accused some UK Government officials of treating them like "complete gangsters". In an interview with the Financial Times he accused the government of trying to rewrite the terms of the deal. He also walked out of the negotiations at one stage. In early February Treasury Holdings chief executive, Maurice Harte, admitted it was having difficulty attracting tenants because of the uncertainty over the negotiations. As the 14th February deadline approached, Legacy announced that the Duke of Westminster was interested in taking a stake in the consortium, but he pulled out on 12th February - just two days before the deadline. Despite the announcement that another property developer, Teesland Group, had joined its consortium it was too late for Legacy to retain its preferred bidder status.

14th February: Legacy now history: Negotiations with preferred bidder Legacy were due to conclude today but now the government says today's deadline isn't a deadline at all but only a guideline. PY has criticised the government for "mishandling" the sale and he wants the bidding process reopened. PY said: "This is the last chance not to end up like British Rail - do a fast cheap deal and regret it later." He wants to keep the Dome as a visitor attraction and hopes to attract a Lennox Lewis- Mike Tyson fight or star attractions like Michael Jackson concerts. Downing Street said the government would continue talking to Legacy "on an exclusive basis", despite the deadline, oops sorry, guidline. A government response on a likely course of action is due "within days".

2nd February: The Big Boys Enter Grosvenor Estates, one of Britain's biggest property companies has confirmed it is willing to make an offer if the current favoured bid from the Legacy consortium collapses. The Prime Minister is reported to be "exasperated" by the failure of Legacy to produce a viable plan to turn the site into a business park and has told John Prescott to bring an end to the disarray.

Grosvenor Estates, owned by the Duke of Westminster, said that if the Government decided to invite new bids for the Dome, then it could join forces with Quintain Estates, which already owns a 12-acre site on the Greenwich peninsula. They would build luxury riverside apartments and offices, and retain the Dome on the site at Greenwich in south east London. In a statement, they said: "Grosvenor and Quintain would be ready to express an interest if the current proposals for the future of the Dome were to be re-evaluated and alternative proposals were sought."

Other proposals include our favourite PY, who is in a consortium with James Palumbo, the owner of the Ministry of Sound nightclub. They want to keep the Dome open as a theme park during the day and use it as a concert venue by night.

1st February: Crisis? What Crisis? Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has confirmed there are problems with the proposed sale of the Dome to property developers Legacy. He said: "Crisis, what crisis? The talks are ongoing. There are always problems with everything and that is what we are here to solve. We have to talk our way through these problems."

31st January: Legacy PR Offensive Shaken by bad publicity about its bid, Legacy goes on the PR offensive by releasing a video of what the Dome will look like once Knowledge-City becomes a reality. BBC Online explains: As the virtual viewer glides past trees and streets, shops and showrooms, bars and restaurants, office buildings and drifting airships, it's hard not to be seduced by the image of a sort of Clerkenwell-under-canvas. The video shows a lively neighbourhood where trendy new start-ups rub shoulders with the big names of the e-revolution, where everyone does business in shirt-sleeves outside their glass-walled office buildings in a controlled Mediterranean-style climate.

Legacy's plans include removing the Dome's inner skin and inserting clear plastic panels made of a substance called ETFE foil to increase light levels inside. Buildings will be of "modular demountable construction", so they can be rapidly built or rebuilt, and there will be a raised floor throughout the Dome to conceal the formidable cables associated with the Dome's energy and IT systems.

30th January: Legacy Deal in Doubt On 30th January, the Legacy consortium denied reports that the deal is on the verge of collapse. Robert Bourne has said the deal is still on course to be finalised on 14th February. Legacy have failed to find any takers for the space to be rented. Spokesman Tim Fallon said: "Everything is still on course. We have had plenty of doubters, but if you want to make something successful it seems you have to put up with these sort of things."

Doubt has been cast on Legacy's claims to have arranged deals with potential tenants. Mr Fallon said: "We have never said we had struck tenancy agreements with anyone. It would be madness to sign one until we have finalised the sale." Legacy says it has chosen to work through "strategic alliances" with companies like Sun Microsystems, NTL, Cisco and Oracle and educational institutions like the Open University and Imperial College, who can bring potential tenants to the Dome - Imperial College's research spins off two new companies a month, all desperate for accommodation. Legacy says it has letters of intent from several strategic partners - but it won't release the letters, and several potential partners deny they will themselves take space in the Dome. BT, cited early on by Legacy as a possible tenant, says its negotiations came to nothing. NTL and Sun Microsystems, named as a tenant by Richard Barrett of Legacy's Irish backers, Treasury Holdings, say they're keen to supply services to other tenants, but won't necessarily take space themselves. Only two small companies are known to have said they will definitely take space: consultancy firm Oxford Innovations and The User Group, which wants to run a kind of club for hi-tech companies, based in a rotunda immediately outside the Dome.

Legacy remains adamant that its bid - on which it has spent 7m in professional advisers' fees - is still on course. Director Bruce Walker says Legacy has sufficient money to begin construction inside the Dome and run it for a year without letting a single square foot.

The newspaper story has been dismissed as "speculation" by a spokesman for the Cabinet Office, the departmental home of Dome minister, Lord Falconer. "We are not making any comment on ongoing negotiations," said the spokesman. Earlier in the week the government let it be known that it was taking a strong line" to ensure that Legacy did not make excess profits from any subsequent sale. Lord Falconer said the issue of "claw-back" and related matters were the subject of active negotiation with Legacy. He said in a written reply to Parliament: "I can assure you that the Government is taking a strong line in seeking to protect public interests through the entire sale process, and will ensure that appropriate safeguards are built into any contract."

23rd January: Passport-for-Favours ? On the 23rd Janaury, the Hinduja's passport scandal exploded, eventually leading to the resignation of Peter Mandelson. Read all about it here

13th January: Just a giant Car Boot Sale? The Millennium Dome has been accused of trying to sell assets it does not own in what has been described as a "giant car boot sale". The designer of the Dome's Play Zone says several complete games from the zone are being offered for sale, even though the special software devised for the games is still owned by the artists who created them. The zone, which was one of the Dome's most popular and successful exhibits, featured several specially-designed games, but the Dome only owns the hardware. These are now being offered for sale by private treaty on the website of Henry Butcher, the firm contracted to sell the Dome's contents. Other items offered for sale range from sound and lighting equipment to the giant crouching boy from the Mind Zone and 310 hamster cages.

Peter Higgins, whose company Land Design was the overall designer of the Play Zone, says the Dome only owns the hardware - like cameras, screens and projectors - associated with the games in the zone. The unique computer software which makes them work remains the property of each game's creator. By offering entire games for sale, he claims Henry Butcher is infringing the software owners' rights, and he wants the advertisement for the games removed. He says the way the Dome's assets are being disposed of in general has been poorly planned. He says efforts should have been made to sell assets on to other lottery projects or to museums, rather than offering them to the highest bidder in a process he likens to a car boot sale. Henry Butcher acknowledges that the Dome does not own the Play Zone software, but is hoping the games' creators will agree to licence them to new owners. That is why the games are being sold by private treaty rather than included in the auction of Dome assets scheduled to start on 27th February. A private sale gives Henry Butcher, the Dome and the owners of software rights the chance to vet potential buyers. The Dome itself says it would be marvellous if some of the games in the Play Zone could find new homes and points out that one of the two "kaleidoscope" games in the zone are likely to go to a school for children with learning difficulties. Peter Higgins thinks it is unlikely that the games' creators will be willing to sell their software to new owners. He says it took 12 months of negotiation to persuade some of the artists involved even to licence their software to the Dome. They could simply refuse to deal with anyone buying the hardware if they thought their games might appear in a purely commercial context. Henry Butcher says nothing will actually be sold until contracts have been exchanged on the sale of the Dome itself. This is planned by 14th February. Anything that remains unsold by mid-February is likely to be offered for sale at auction. If a deal cannot be reached with the software owners to sell entire games, that could include Play Zone hardware like plasma screens and cameras.

9th January: Legacy to make a profit within three years In an interview with the Financial Times, Robert Bourne has predicted that he will make a profit from the Dome within three years, renewing criticism that the government was selling off the Dome too cheaply. Bourne insisted the government would share in any profits from the development. "The agreement had a whole range of conditions and anti-embarrassment clauses, sharing arrangements, guarantees and obligations," he said.

8th January: Dome bought on HP Lord Falconer has just confirmed that Legacy will be allowed to pay for the Dome in installments. They are likely to make a down-payment of 50m and settle the balance "over a period of years."

8th January: National Audit Office to investigate sale The government's spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, has confirmed it is looking into the proposed 125m sell-off of the Millennium Dome. The NAO has already made one report into the financial management of the Dome, which concluded that the attraction was risky and financially weak, before it opened. A spokesman said that the current monitoring amounted to "a watching brief". "We are doing preliminary work on the sale of the Dome with a view to possibly reporting to Parliament," he said.

6th January: Doubts grow over viability of Legacy bid Oops! Last week, the Millennium Commission reportedly told the government that the plans of its preferred bidder, Legacy, would fail. There is growing pessimism within the Millennium Commission about the viability of the proposal. Pierre-Yves Gerbeau said he is still interested in heading a bid to continue its use as a visitor attraction. The contents of the Dome will be auctioned between 27th February and 2nd March in a sale that it is estimated could fetch up to 10m.

6th January: Political Funding Row - Part 1 New Labour faces more criticism over its party funding after it admitted that Robert Bourne donated 33,000 to Labour during the bidding process for the Dome. New Labour sources stress that the cash received late last year was the third instalment of a 100,000 donation pledged long before the Dome was even built. Mr Bourne has insisted that the two were not linked: "The Dome is a business deal. Donating to Labour is supporting people and policies." A Legacy spokesman said that he had no current plans to make further personal donations to New Labour, but had not ruled out future donations.

Bourne's donation was revealed shortly after the controversy caused when New Labour tried to keep secret a 2 million donation from Lord Hamlyn. Two further 2 million donations, from Lord Sainsbury and Christopher Ondaatje, have since been announced.

3rd January: Oh, No Not the Final Attendence Figures..... Unaudited figures show that the Dome attracted 6,517,000 visitors in total. December was the busiest month of the year with 737,300 visitors, compared to the previous records of 657,624 in October and 606,519 in July.

3rd January: Dome sold for a song British Gas sold the land on which the Dome stands to the Government three years ago on the condition that it received 7.5 per cent of the proceeds when the site was sold. Lattice Properties, the development arm of British Gas, is considering asking for an independent valuation if the site is sold to Legacy plc for 125 million. Lattice believes the land may be worth up to twice as much.

Legacy plc said in a statement that it remained the Government's preferred bidder and said final negotiations and discussions for the site were advancing. "Whilst there remains work to be done, Legacy plc expects that a satisfactory conclusion will be reached during February at which point contracts will be signed," said the statement. London Mayor Ken Livingstone has threatened to block preferred bidder Legacy's plans for the site if they do not nclude housing for public sector workers.

2nd January: Heseltine: "Madness" Former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine has labelled it "madness" to strip the interior of the Millennium Dome. Heseltine was one of the major forces behind the early days of the Dome. He said its internal displays should not be sold until it is certain that it will not open again as a visitor attraction. The contents of the 12 theme zones and the 2000-seat stadium would be vital to a scheme fronted by Pierre-Yves Gerbeau to keep it open as a theme park by day and use it as a concert venue in the evenings, he said.

The Dome closed on New Year's Eve and workmen moved in to strip the contents for an auction which it was hoped would raise 50 million. Mr Heseltine said the move was premature when the contracts for the business park proposed by Legacy had not yet been signed. He told a national newspaper: "It's madness. They have not signed anything at all. Legacy has only got first preference. That's it. The Government is weakening the option of someone else coming in, in the event of the Legacy bid failing, if they sell off all the internal assets. They should stop dismantling it now until we know that we have a genuine deal." Mr Heseltine was backed by fellow former Dome Commissioner Simon Jenkins, one of the attraction's most long-standing and vocal supporters, who said the sell-off of contents was "outrageous". Mr Jenkins said that Legacy should work with Mr Gerbeau in keeping the attraction open for at least six months while the business park deal is finalised. But Legacy told the paper: "We are confident our bid will succeed. We see no reason to change our bid."

31st December: Bye, Bye Dome! - Closure Day The stars came out in force to bid farewell to our Dome. Today's visitors included Cherie Blair, with eldest daughter Kathryn, John and Pauline Prescott with their two sons, and Lord Falconer, the minister responsible for the year-long fiasco. Mrs Blair, when asked what she thought of the Dome said: "It's fantastic." More than 60,000 people attended the Dome's final weekend bringing the total attendence figures for the year up to approximately 6.5 million.

29th December: Dome to be a Moneyspinner at last Lord Falconer has announced that the government is to take a share of any profits from the sale of houses built on the site of the Millennium Dome. Legacy is reportedly planning to build hundreds of luxury homes on part of the site. The Times nespaper claims that Legacy could net 200m if it sells off just some of the land for an exclusive housing development.

Falconer said that the government's negotiations with Legacy had been entirely above board. "If there was to be any housing, it would be on a piece of land to the south of the Dome which Legacy will be buying if the deal goes ahead, and in relation to that piece of land, there is a claw-back arrangement." That means a percentage of any profits will go to the government, he explained. But Lord Falconer declined to specify how large a percentage that would be, citing commercial confidentiality.

Only Legacy remains as a potential buyer for the Dome following a bidding process marred by controversy. Lord Falconer stressed: "They are only at preferred bidder status at the moment, no contracts have yet been exchanged, and the detail of that would have to be worked out." Asked whether he was sensitive about Mr Bourne's support for Labour, Lord Falconer said: "I know these connections will be made by the newspapers, but it is an extremely bizarre connection to make." Lord Falconer added that he would not be pleased to see his period of responsibility for the Dome come to an end. "It has been an incredibly interesting and intense period of time. Although the Dome hasn't met its 12 million visitor target, the things it has achieved . . . are worthwhile goals to have achieved," he concluded.

Greenwich Council has confirmed that a planning application had been lodged by Legacy for change of use of the Dome and further details of any housing plans are expected in February. A spokesman for Legacy said it was Greenwich Council who had requested significant housing on the site.

28th December: Reasons to be cheerful 1-2-3 On 28th December, ITN ran an article on its webiste entitled "Reasons to be cheerful 1-2-3" which stressed the positive side to the Dome. Not wanting to be biased in any way, this website lists those positives below.

  • The New Millennium Experience Company's one unquestionable achievement was that it got the thing built and ready in time for the biggest unbreakable deadline of all. Had it not been finished by New Year's Eve 1999, there would have been a rash of soul-searching newspaper critics asking: "Can we actually build anything any more?"
  • Before the decision was taken to build the Dome, the peninsula on which it is sited was a disused gasworks, rotten with contamination. English Partnerships cleaned the whole thing up for about 150m, meaning what had been a useless bit of land in the heart of London is now usable again. It is claimed the project has done much to revive the local economy.
  • The Jubilee Line extension now goes some way to complete the London Underground picture, connecting parts of the east of London which were out on a limb. The new stations have been widely praised as outstanding examples of modern design. And what about the Dome itself? Every capital city needs its landmarks. Although the image of the Dome is tainted for many, it is undeniably an impressive sight on the skyline.
  • And there are all the skills that have been learnt in the last year. The designing, building and running of the Dome has given thousands of people experience of difficult jobs. For instance, not many people can juggle while bungee jumping on stilts, but when the Dome shuts there will be dozens of trained circus acrobats looking for opportunities to entertain. Some of the aerial acrobats are planning to set up their own circus, but it is reported that they are waiting for 54,000 in European funds to set it up!

    19th December: Tenants are fighting to sign up Legacy has signed up its first tenant to occupy the Dome when it become a high-tech business park. It has signed an agreement with information technology company Sun Microsystems and will involve Sun being part of the Knowledge City which Legacy plans for the Dome in a 250 million investment that could see 14,000 jobs created in three years. Sun will offer technology services to developing hi-tech companies located at the Dome.

    Ian Merritt, head of Sun Microsystems' UK Incubator Programme, said: "Knowledge City will provide a world-leading environment for early-stage companies and others to drive the UK towards being a world leader in high-technology."

    Legacy is expected to take over the site at the end of February 2001. However, it could take between five and six months before the Dome's zones are demolished and Legacy is able to begin building its business city. The Government will only get around 60 million of the 126 million that Legacy will pay at the time the deal is signed in February. The rest of the money will be delivered over a two-year period.

    7th December: DOME 1951 Thanks to everyone for the comments received over the last few days.

    MP. drew our attention to the successful Festival of Britain in 1951. He says:

    "The new attempt by the Millennium Dome, Greenwich to push up the year's total admissions to 6 million visitors should be compared with the total PAID admissions to the 6 main exhibitions of the Festival of Britain of approximately 10.25 million for a 5 month period between May and September 1951 inclusive. (The South Bank Exhibition in London alone received 8 million visitors, with the 5 other exhibitions in Glasgow, London and 13 other U.K. cities and towns accounting for all the rest of them.)"

    1951's Dome of Discovery is pictured below - further details can be found on MP's own website at www.packer34.freeserve.co.uk/dome.htm

    A comment received from FL in Greenwich. Questions must be asked (see below) - Does Charlie Falconer actually know where his precious Dome is ? FL says:

    "Hi, Just reading the ''Questions should be asked'' section on your site. The last comment by Lord Falconer that ''Greenwich peninsula in east London''.... blah blah blah... I have lived in the Borough of Greenwich for 35 years and always believed it to be in south-east London? Perhaps he is talking of another, successful Dome on the other, north side of the river? Yours, a fan of the other Great Exhibitions in the UK 1851, 1908, 1924, 1951 etc. FL."

    3rd December: OH, NO, NOT THE ATTENDANCE FIGURES!! Vistor numbers are down again - November figures are the worst since January. Just over 387,000 people visited - a little over half October's. Forever cheerful, P-Y said "November was a fantastic month at the Dome ... Our target was 250,000 visitors and we beat that by more than 100,000 - a wonderful achievement when you think about the weather and transport problems that Britain has suffered". (This guy deserves a bonus ... around 100,000 should do it!)

    If the Dome is to reach its new, new revised visitor target of 6 million, at least 220,000 people must visit the dome in December. With tickets priced as low as 1 each on Christmas Eve, that shouldn't be too difficult, even for the Dome.

    Check here to play the numbers game.

    2nd December: LEGACY UPDATE Oh, dear! Questions are already beginning to be asked about the suitability of Robert Bourne and his Legacy consortium to be the future owners of the Dome.

    Full plans for the Dome have yet to be announced, although Greenwich council reveals that there is nothing very futuristic about Legacy's plans - they include building at least 1,000 homes just south of the dome, shops, offices and hotel accomodation. Legacy is vague about the detail and will not announce specific plans until they go before Greenwich Council in January for planning permission. Yet the Government has approved the bid, and public money will continue to be invested in great quantities in the area. Ken Livingstone has the feasibility study report for the construction of a tunnel under the Thames linking the Dome with the Royal Docks, at an estimated cost of 295 million. An area of 10 acres has been set aside for road links to the tunnel, or a bridge costing 160 million.

    Read all about the Legacy here

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