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Final curtain for Alexandra Palace tycoon

PUBLISHED: 16:55 11 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:40 07 September 2010

THE financial burden of Ally Pally is back on the taxpayer after millionaire Firoz Kassam moved out of the historic venue on Friday. Following months of wrangling over a deal which ended in the High Court in October, the company Firoka

By Charlotte Newton

THE financial burden of Ally Pally is back on the taxpayer after millionaire Firoz Kassam moved out of the historic venue on Friday.

Following months of wrangling over a deal which ended in the High Court in October, the company Firoka has moved all staff out of the building.

Haringey Council is now left to foot the £900,000 costs of running the palace since July. It also faces a whopping bill for the building's future upkeep.

Lib Dem leader Cllr Neil Williams said: "It's the right thing to do, but it's outrageous that it has taken the palace so long to resolve this situation.

"The palace should never have allowed a situation to develop whereby Firoka was pocketing the income from the palace to the detriment of both the charity and local tax payers."

The 135-year-old building, which is desperately in need of repair, is owned by the Alexandra Palace Charitable Trust and administered by Haringey Council. Two years ago it was running a deficit of £1.5million a year and the trust decided to lease it out, hopefully ending years of financial headaches.

Firoka won the tender and announced plans to create a hotel and leisure complex but in October the High Court ruled the agreement could not go ahead. Mr Justice Jeremy Sullivan said the consultation with residents about the deal had been "manifestly unfair" because the Charity Commission had failed to make the terms of the 125-year lease available to the public. The judge argued this prevented those campaigners who were against Firoka's plans from making meaningful objections.

Jacob O'Callaghan, who led the Save Ally Pally Campaign, said: "It seems that despite the High Court ruling we obtained, Haringey's advisers were determined to carry on giving away the people's palace - leaving the people i.e. the council tax payers - with nothing but the bills."

In spite of the stalemate over the sale, Firoka continued working in the building and the company profited from the gigs and events held there.

Firoka was issued with a 28-day ultimatum on December 7 and staff moved out on Friday. And despite the financial burden Mr Kassam's departure places back on the trust, and the Alexandra Palace Trading Company it has set up to run the venue, trustees are claiming a victory.

A spokesman said: "The Alexandra Palace Trading Company is back in business.

"Customers, clients and the local community will all now benefit from the trading company taking back control of the palace's commercial operation.

"A smooth transition plan is in place to make sure future events at the palace go off without a hitch."

The trust is now waiting to hear from Mr Kassam on whether he wishes to re-apply to take over the building and take part in a fresh consultation process.

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