Millennium Commission kept Dome open on Simmons advice

Simmons & Simmons initiated the PricewaterhouseCoopers report which convinced the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) and the Millennium Commission not to close the Dome early.

Lead insolvency partner John Houghton is heading a team of 10, which is now working closely with new executive chairman David James and accountant John Darlington, who will assume full control over financial affairs. The team covers due diligence and contracts, employment, environment and landlord/tenant issues. It includes five partners and two newly qualified assistants, seconded to NMEC.

Houghton says: “When we came in and were asked to advise on exit strategy, our advice included recommending an independent review, which was carried out by PwC.

“We were asked to review the consequences of early closure and to assess the legal liabilities that would follow. That was reported to the Millennium Commission as part of PwC’s report. Our advice was that there would be a number of legal claims if there was early closure and severe liabilities for NMEC.”

Houghton’s team has been working with David James for the past month. James has traditionally had a strong relationship with Berwin Leighton, but the firm is already advising English Partnerships on property issues and would be conflicted out from advising NMEC. “We continue to be involved in the exit strategy, working with David James, PwC and John Darlington,” says Houghton.

The latest Dome controversy raises questions about advice given to NMEC before Simmons’ involvement. Norton Rose advised NMEC on property and construction issues, but the bulk of the “2,800 separate contracts” criticised last week by James are understood to have been drawn up by NMEC’s hard-pressed in-house legal team, originally comprising more than 10 lawyers. The in-house team was unavailable for comment.

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