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Dome lurches from crisis to crisis as bankers brought in

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The saga of the Millennium Dome lurched from bad to worse last week after a leaked report revealed that the Greenwich attraction has sucked up £628 million of cash and was insolvent when it was awarded its latest £47 million Lottery handout.

The lengthy report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), produced in only eight days from the firm's appointment on 10 August, shows the full extent of what it brands the project's financial 'crisis' and has prompted calls for the resignation of the Dome's political shareholder Lord Falconer. It has also led to detectives investigating fraud against one of the building's contractors. The report, Project Mozart, details how an early closure of the Dome would be inadvisable due to the expense from claims PWC would expect to be made from sponsors of some of the Dome's zones on the New Millennium Experience Company. BT, Ford, Manpower, Marks & Spencer and MacDonald's have all already told the NMEC they would 'consider their legal position' and the report said claims of up to £50 million could be expected.

The PWC report, which was not made available to Nomura, the Japanese bank which pulled out of a bid to buy the Dome last week (AJ 14.9.00), also says that plans by the NMEC to host Miss World in the Dome on 30 November could result in a 'substantial claim' if Dome bosses closed it early.

The Dome's management also considered shutting two days a week and cutting the number of main shows, but the former would only have saved £3.2 million before 31 December 2000. The latter would save less than £50,000 per month and might have resulted in staff strike action and further bad press.Axing the show completely would have 'substantially reduced the attraction', the PWC's auditors said.

English Partnerships had been told to look at all the options for the Dome, which includes its possible demolition to make way for office space, but Dome chairman David James has now appointed Lazard Brothers to look after the sale. Legacy, the consortium which moved into pole position to reuse the Dome last week with its renewed hi-tech business park bid designed by Lifschutz Davidson, has discussed a £105 million deal with Lord Falconer. Other consortia are also interested in the sale again, but they are understood to favour demolition of the Dome structure.

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