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TV production firm founded in Wales agrees multimillion pound rescue deal

12 Apr 2021 4 minute read
Fimling for Heno programme on S4C. By Hefin Owen (CC 2.0)

The TV production firm behind Question Time, which was founded in Wales, has won a rescue deal that has saved 650 jobs after being battered by the pandemic.

Tinopolis, who also produces the magazine chat show, Heno, for S4C, has negotiated a multimillion-pound agreement that will inject fresh capital into the business.

However, it will wipe out more than £100m in loans owed to executives and former managers.

The move has reportedly angered some producers who stand to lose money under the deal after selling their business to the group.

The restructure will see lenders HSBC, First Nations Bank of Canada, Blackrock and Pemberton Asset Management defer debt repayments and plough £10m into the firm.

Management will maintain majority ownership through a new company, Tinopolis Group Limited, after investing more than £250,000 and providing additional loans.

The group, which has a distribution arm as well as 13 production companies with bases in London, Los Angeles, Glasgow, Cardiff and Llanelli, was on the brink of running out of cash as it grappled with the production sector’s widespread shutdown due to Covid.

Its shows range from Traffic Cops to BT Sport and Amazon’s Premier League and rugby coverage and includes Sky Sports live broadcasting of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

The company’s Chair Ron Jones said it has been “uniquely punished by the pandemic” because of its heavy reliance on sport.

It has also had to postpone productions in the US, such as American Ninja Warrior, which it produces for NBC. There needs to be hundreds of people on set for the show, as well as hundreds in the audience, which was impossible because of Covid regulations.

‘Hasn’t suffered’

However, Jones said that the firm’s work in Wales, where it employs 150 people, “hasn’t suffered at all”.

This is partly because some of the daily shows it produces in Wales, such as the magazine and chat show Heno on S4C, have been categorised as Essential Broadcasting by the government.

He told Nation.Cymru: “But if I’m honest, the biggest factor keeping us on the air in Wales was the astonishing work by the crew in finding ways to work within the rules.

“If you look at something like Sgwrs dan y Lloer (Chat under the Moon), with Elin Fflur, it’s a perfect example of the crew coming up with something where you had social distance from the guests. Fair play to the crew, Angharad Mair and Rhian Thomas who run the place, did a great job really in keeping going.”

In a statement about the restructuring, he said: “The damage caused by Covid has been significant and a complete recovery will not be easy.

“However, our underlying business has shown considerable resilience in the last 12 months and is now on a sound footing.

“Equally, our relationships with key commercial partners have remained strong during a difficult time and we value their continued support.

“Tinopolis has an encouraging pipeline of projects and new contracts. The management team is committed, personally invested and incentivised to continue building a world-class production and distribution business in the UK and US, so we look forward to working with our talented staff to return the group to its former success and beyond.

“Our banks and institutional funders have now committed to invest significant new funds to enable the group to restore its trading to pre-pandemic levels.

“In addition, the management team has provided significant new investment. A majority holding in the continuing business will therefore be sold to a new company owned by these management investors.”

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