Final scene in cinema dynasty feud ends in break-up


BACKGROUND:In a world where two families control half the cinemas in the State and where mediation cannot resolve a dispute, one family must offer a settlement. Things are about to get messy but a hero will rise. Ward Anderson presents Family Feud – coming to a cinema near you soon – and this time it’s personal.

The Ward Anderson row is more suited to the plot of a movie being shown in one of their cineplexes, and is so bitter and long-running that conversations over a lunch almost 15 years ago have been dragged up in counter-claims.

Half-brothers Kevin Anderson and Leo Ward had good relations from the time they established the business in 1949 and bought their first cinema in Lucan in 1955. They initially made their money after winning the Irish rights to show James Bond films, and went on to purchase the jewel in the Rank cinema crown – the Savoy on Dublin’s O’Connell Street – in 1983.

But the relationship between their sons, both named Paul, has not always been so good. The second generations began to fall out in 1997 over a cinema in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Relations worsened in 2003 when the Wards moved out of the group’s head office in Dublin city centre without notice and set up a new office in Dún Laoghaire.

The family dispute arrived in the courts in 2011 when Ward took a legal action arising from Anderson’s deal to develop a cinema in the St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin.

Ward alleges Anderson was approached in 2009 with an opportunity to open a multiplex cinema in the Stephen’s Green centre and had, through Omniplex Holdings, entered an agreement to operate such a cinema.

In doing so, Ward alleges, Anderson acted contrary to the best interests of Dublin Cinema Group (DCG) and created a conflict of interest between his interests and those of DCG. The Anderson and Ward families effectively own the DCG 50-50.

The court heard tales yesterday of DCG’s “legendary” origins, with tales of the founders going around on bicycles to Howth with cans of film in order to set up projectors. The legal battle and resulting agreement to split all assets down the middle brings to an end a 60-year partnership.

Initially each family wanted to buy the other out, but this was rejected. Earlier this week, the Anderson family made an offer to the Ward family to split the DCG assets, which include the Omniplex cinemas in Cork, Santry and Tullamore, and the Savoy and Screen cinemas in Dublin, with the Andersons.

The two most valuable assets are said to be the Omniplex in Cork, worth €15 million, and the Savoy in Dublin, worth €8.3 million. Each family could only be allowed one of these assets under the offer.

With that, the Andersons said the Wards could take any of the group’s other three cinemas, the Screen in Dublin and omniplexes in Santry and Tullamore, Co Offaly, and the “opportunity” to develop a cinema on St Stephen’s Green, valued at €2 million.

It is understood this offer was rejected by the Wards. Since then both families agreed to split everything down the middle. However, neither family can have both the Savoy in Dublin and the Omniplex in Cork. Legal action has been dropped.

DCG is just one strand of the sprawling cinema interests of Ward Anderson. However, all of the other cinemas are owned by one or other family. Overall the families are estimated to control about 50 per cent of the Irish cinema market.