Elliott premieres blockbuster bid for parts of ailing Cineworld

Elliott premieres blockbuster bid for parts of ailing Cineworld

The renowned activist investor Elliott Management is plotting a takeover of large chunks of Cineworld, the stricken London-listed cinema operator.

Sky News has learnt that Elliott is interested in acquiring Cineworld’s operations in eastern Europe and Israel.

While Elliott is also understood to have explored a bid for the whole of the ailing group, its latest proposal to Cineworld’s advisers does not include the company’s operations in the UK and US, according to insiders.

Elliott, which is among the parties involved in the auction of Manchester United Football Club, has become an increasingly active private equity investor in recent years.

Among the consumer-facing companies it has backed are Barnes & Noble and Waterstones, the book retailers, and Claire’s, the fashion accessories chain.

It is said to be interested in Cineworld as the cinema industry continues to recover in the wake of the pandemic, having been buoyed by the release of No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond, and the sequel to Avatar.

Earlier this month, Sky News revealed that Elliott had hired Sir Mike Rake, the former BT Group chairman and one-time CBI president, to burnish its historically hostile reputation in UK boardrooms.

In recent years, Elliott has built stakes in FTSE-350 companies including BHP, the mining giant, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, the shopping centre-owner, and Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn hotels.

At most of them, it has either pushed publicly or behind the scenes for strategic or management changes, and has earned a reputation as one of the most aggressive activist funds in the world.

Elliott Management, the US-based parent, was founded in the 1970s by Paul Singer with just over $1m under management.

It now manages close to $55.7bn, and its London office is run by Mr Singer’s son, Gordon.

City sources said a small number of parties were seriously interested in buying parts of Cineworld, which has grown in recent years to become the world’s second-largest cinema group.

In the UK, it trades under its parent company’s brand and owns the Picturehouse chain, while in the US it owns the giant Regal multiplex portfolio.

Elsewhere, it operates in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Romania and Slovakia.

This weekend, one analyst estimated the value of Cineworld’s operations outside the UK and US at about $500m.

The London-listed company, which floated in 2007, has warned that any deal to break it up is unlikely to yield value for shareholders.

Cineworld, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US last year, has seen its stock crash by nearly 95% during the last year.

Its market capitalisation now stands at just £31m.

The identities of other parties interested in acquiring the company was unclear this weekend, with rival cinema operator Vue International having recently been frozen out of the auction process.

Vue’s founder, Tim Richards, had been attempting to engineer a tie-up between two of the UK’s largest cinema operators, while the founder of Picturehouse was also in talks with him about buying it back as part of a break-up of Cineworld.

In a stock exchange announcement on Friday, Cineworld reiterated that it “remains in discussions with its key stakeholders with a view to developing a Chapter 11 plan of reorganisation that maximises value for the benefit of the Group and its stakeholders”.

“The marketing process, which was announced on 3 January 2023, is continuing in parallel.

“As previously announced, it is not expected that any plan of reorganisation or sale transaction would result in any recovery for Cineworld’s shareholders.”

PJT Partners, the investment bank, is advising Cineworld on the auction.

A spokesman for Elliott declined to comment on Saturday.

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Tornado kills at least 10 as storms tear through southern US states

Tornado kills at least 10 as storms tear through southern US states

At least 10 people have died after a powerful tornado ripped through several southern US states, destroying buildings and knocking out power.

Severe storms hit Mississippi, Alabama and Texas on Friday, producing hail the size of golf balls and prompting authorities to warn residents they were in a “life-threatening situation”.

The National Weather Service issued an alert to people in the path of the tornado and said: “To protect your life, TAKE COVER NOW!”

“You are in a life-threatening situation. Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter… Considerable damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles is likely and complete destruction is possible.”

The tornado caused destruction in the rural Mississippi towns of Silver City and Rolling Fork on Friday night before continuing sweeping northeast towards Alabama at 70mph.

In Texas, two tornadoes with 100mph winds struck around 5am on Friday, leaving five people injured.

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves said on Twitter that search and rescue teams were active and officials were sending more ambulances and emergency resources to those affected.

Shelters were opened for those whose homes were damaged by the storm.

In Rolling Fork town, people were trapped in piles of rubbles and damage had caused gas leaks, local newspaper Vicksburg News reported the Sharkey County Sheriff’s Office as saying.

A tornado touched down on Friday in Texas. Grab from NBC News
The aftermath of the tornado in Texas. Pic: NBC News
A tornado touched down on Friday in Texas
A Texas resident clears up after a tornado hit. Pic: NBC News

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The storm was a “supercell”, which brews the deadliest tornadoes and most damaging hail, said University of Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Walker Ashley.

Friday’s storm was a night time, wet one which is “the worst kind”, he said.

Earlier on Friday a car was swept away and two passengers drowned in Missouri during torrential rain that was part of a severe weather system.

By early Saturday, tornado watches remained in parts of eastern Mississippi and in northern Alabama, according to the weather service. Earlier, those watches covered almost all of Mississippi.

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Vatican returns Parthenon sculpture fragments in move that could add pressure on British Museum to do the same

Vatican returns Parthenon sculpture fragments in move that could add pressure on British Museum to do the same

The Vatican has returned three fragments of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece in a move that could increase pressure on the British Museum to do the same.

The sculptures, which represent a horse and two male heads, were originally created as part of the famous Parthenon temple in Athens but had been held in the Vatican Museums for more than two centuries.

Their return was discussed during a visit to Athens by Pope Francis two years ago, and they will soon be added to the collection at the Acropolis Museum.

Greece’s culture minister Lina Mendoni said: “Initiatives like these show the way, how the pieces of the Parthenon can be reunited, healing the wounds caused by barbaric hands so many years ago.

“This takes us to the just and moral demand of the entire Greek people, and of this government and its prime minister, for the final return of all the sculptures of the Parthenon.”

Around half of the original sculpture survive today – of these, around half are in Athens and half in the British Museum.

Ms Mendoni said her country “cannot recognise possession and ownership by the British Museum because it considers the sculptures to be there as a product of theft”.

The sculptures were taken in the early 19th century by British diplomat Lord Elgin before Greece became independent from the Ottoman Empire.

One of three Parthenon fragments, returned from the Vatican, is seen at the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum, in Athens, Greece March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi
One of three Parthenon fragments, returned from the Vatican, is seen at the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum, in Athens, Greece March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Greece has been campaigning for years to have the sculptures returned from London, saying they are part of the country’s heritage.

The British Museum, however, says that giving them up could undermine museum collections worldwide and that Elgin had acted with the “full knowledge and permission of the legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London”.

On Friday, at a ceremony for the sculptures’ return from the Vatican, the leader of Greece’s Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos II said: “This act by Pope Francis is of historical significance and has a positive impact on all levels … We hope it sets an example for others.”

Last year, another sculpture fragment from the Parthenon temple, depicting a foot of the ancient Greek goddess Artemis, was returned to Athens from a museum in Sicily.

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Five notable moments in Gwyneth Paltrow's ski collision lawsuit testimony

Five notable moments in Gwyneth Paltrow's ski collision lawsuit testimony

Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow is being sued by a retired optometrist who says she crashed into him on a ski slope, leaving him with a number of injuries.

Paltrow denies this – claiming that Terry Sanderson crashed into her – and on Friday she had her chance to share her side of the story with a court room in Park City, Utah.

Among the notable moments:

Terry Sanderson was making ‘strange noises that sounded male’

Paltrow said she had initially thought she was being sexually assaulted during the collision.

She said she knew a man had crashed into her because he was making “some strange noises that sounded male” and he was “large”.

She said she felt “a body pressing against me”, adding: “There was a strange grunting noise”.

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Paltrow describes ‘strange grunting noise’

Are you counter-suing for $1 because of a Taylor Swift case?

Paltrow was asked if she was counter-suing for $1 because US singer Taylor Swift brought a similar “symbolic” lawsuit in the past.

When asked if she knew about Swift’s case, Paltrow said: “I had not been familiar with it, but I now am.”

“It’s an actual dollar that I’m asking for – it’s symbolic because the damages would actually be more,” she added.

When asked if she and Swift are friends, she said: “I would not say we’re good friends – we are friendly, but we don’t talk very often.”

Terry Sanderson in court. Pic: AP
Terry Sanderson. Pic: AP

Recreating events in the court room

Kristin Van Orman, a lawyer for Terry Sanderson, asked if Paltrow could step away from the witness stand to demonstrate what happened at the time of the collision.

The actress’s lawyers object – an objection sustained by the judge.

Ms Van Orman instead attempted to recreate the events herself in the court room, with Paltrow directing her.

Were your children’s ski lessons expensive?

Paltrow was asked how much she had spent on ski lessons for her children Apple and Moses and her now-husband’s children who were also on the trip.

The total bill came to $8,980, a lawyer for Mr Sanderson said.

Paltrow replied: “It’s very expensive.”

Mr Sanderson’s lawyer asked the actress if she is a good tipper, and she confirmed that she is.

Gwyneth Paltrow enters the courtroom for her ski crash trial, in Park City, Utah, U.S. March 24, 2023. Rick Bowmer/Pool via REUTERS

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‘I apologise for my language’

Paltrow talked about yelling at Mr Sanderson after the ski collision, saying she was “very upset and it was still very strange to me what had happened”.

Paltrow told the jury that Mr Sanderson “mumbled” an apology after she yelled at him “you skied into my f***ing back!”.

“I apologise for my language,” she told the court.

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Gwyneth Paltrow tells court she thought collision on ski slope was a sex assault

Gwyneth Paltrow tells court she thought collision on ski slope was a sex assault

Gwyneth Paltrow has insisted that she was the “victim” of a skiing collision with a retired optometrist during an accident at a resort in Utah.

Paltrow was speaking while giving evidence in a civil case brought by Terry Sanderson, who is suing the actress for $300,000 (£245,000) over the incident at Deer Valley in 2016.

Mr Sanderson, 76, says he was left with several broken ribs and a severe concussion, as well as mental and physical injuries after Paltrow “slammed” into him on the slopes.

But Paltrow, 50, is counter-suing for the symbolic figure of $1, claiming that Mr Sanderson collided with her.

Speaking in court on Friday, Paltrow said she initially thought that she was being sexually assaulted during the collision, saying she had felt “a body pressing against me” and that she had heard “a strange grunting noise”.

She admitted feeling “very upset” about the incident and had shouted: “You skied directly into my f****** back!” at Mr Sanderson.

Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash court case – live: Star takes the stand

Paltrow testified on the fourth day of the trial, having attended court every day since Tuesday.

Describing herself as an “intermediate” skier who was “familiar” with the rules of skiing, Paltrow denied that she had been engaging in “risky behaviour” on the slopes and repeated multiple times that she had been skied into from behind by Mr Sanderson.

Gwyneth Paltrow has attended all four days of the trial
The actress has attended all four days of the trial

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“I was confused at first and I didn’t know exactly what was happening,” she said.

“It’s a very strange thing to happen on a ski slope. I froze and I would say I got very upset a couple of seconds later.”

She added: “[I thought] is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted?… my mind was going very quickly and trying to ascertain what was happening.”

Mr Sanderson’s lawyer Ms Van Orman attempted to get Paltrow to reconstruct the sequence of events in the court room, but had to make do with recreating the events herself.

Paltrow said: “I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart.

“And then there was a body pressing against me.”

“Was he grinding or thrusting?” Ms Van Orman asked. “What made you think it was a sexual assault?”

Paltrow replied: “It was a quick thought that went through my head.

No stranger to the spotlight, Paltrow looked at ease in court

Gwyneth Paltrow is no stranger to the spotlight but this was an entirely different prospect, testifying in a legal battle which has been going on for more than seven years.

She and Terry Sanderson have completely different versions of events for the accident at Deer Valley ski resort in February 2016.

She says he skied into the back of her from above; he says she ploughed into him like “Godzilla” from behind.

Given their drastically different accounts, one of them must be either lying or completely mis-remembering what happened and that will be for the jury to decide.

For her part, Paltrow looked at ease even when being questioned by Sanderson’s lawyer, at one point complimenting her on her choice of shoes.

She was cross-examined by her own lawyer, smiling and even laughing as they spoke about her ex-husband, the Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and new partner, Brad Falchuk.

Her lawyer also said they expect to call her two children Apple and Moses – of whom Paltrow is fiercely protective – to testify next week.

“There was a strange grunting noise and a body behind me so I was trying to make sense of what was going on.

“What you have to remember is that when you’re a victim of a crash, your psychology is not necessarily thinking about the person who perpetrated it.

“Mr Sanderson hit me and that is categorically the truth.”

Later, under cross examination from her attorney Stephen Owens, Paltrow said she felt “very sorry” for Mr Sanderson.

“I really do feel very sorry for him,” she said.

“It seems like he’s had a very difficult life but I did not cause the accident so I cannot be at fault for what subsequently happened to him.”

Mr Sanderson will testify next week.

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Pallbearers of Queen's coffin recognised in special honours list

Pallbearers of Queen's coffin recognised in special honours list

Eight pallbearers who carried the late Queen’s coffin at her funeral are among those to be recognised in a special honours list.

The soldiers – who were selected to be pallbearers from the King’s Company (then Queen’s), 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards – have been awarded the silver Royal Victorian Medal.

They were named as recipients of honours under the Royal Victorian Order (RVO) in recognition of their service to the Queen, as part of a special set of Demise awards.

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November 2022: Late Queen ‘greatly missed’

RVO gifts are bestowed by the King to people who have served the monarch or the Royal Family in a personal way.

Lance Sergeant Alex Turner, Lance Corporal Tony Flynn, Lance Sergeant Elias Orlowski, Guardsman Fletcher Cox, Guardsman James Patterson, Lance Sergeant Ryan Griffiths, Guardsman Luke Simpson, and Guardsman David Sanderson carried the coffin as millions of people watched the funeral last September.

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The Queen's funeral flanked by navy

The unit had a close connection with the Queen – as the serving monarch she held the position of company commander and made a personal review of the company every decade.

Also recognised in the special honours list are the Queen’s closest adviser, Angela Kelly, and pallbearers who carried the Queen’s coffin at her lying-in-rest in Edinburgh.

Ms Kelly, the Queen’s personal assistant, adviser and curator, worked for the monarch for more than 25 years and was made a Commander of the RVO.

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During the COVID lockdown, Ms Kelly was thought to be part of a small group dubbed “HMS Bubble” that the Queen isolated with.

Ms Kelly once disclosed in an interview: “We are two typical women. We discuss clothes, make-up, jewellery.”

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