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  • Nik Powell

    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ne...was-69-1253297

  • #2
    The Guardian obituary

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/201...owell-obituary

    Nick

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    • #3
      Nik Powell, businessman who co-founded Virgin Records and had a string of box office hits with Palace Pictures – obituary


      Nik Powell CREDIT: JONATHAN HORDLE/REX

      11 NOVEMBER 2019 • 5:42PM

      Nik Powell, who has died of cancer aged 69, began his business career looking after the accounts of his childhood friend, Richard Branson, with whom he founded Virgin Records; when they went their separate ways he formed the British film industry’s most colourful double act with Stephen Woolley, producing some of the best-known British films of the last few decades, including Mona Lisa (1986), The Crying Game (1992), Last Orders (2001), and Ladies in Lavender (2004).

      From 2003 to 2017 Powell was director of the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, where he introduced new programmes, encouraged diversity, increased sponsorship and built links with industry. Under his guidance NFTS was awarded Screen Academy status in 2005.

      An erudite, impassioned man with longish hair and a penchant for wearing pinstripe jackets over scruffy slacks and scuffed casual shoes, Powell cultivated a half mockney, half mid-Atlantic accent and was once described as a “disarming cross between a tycoon and a superannuated hippy”.


      The Company of Wolves (1984)
      CREDIT: PICTORIAL PRESS LTD/ALAMY

      His life had ups and downs. For many years he struggled with epilepsy, and he encountered bankruptcy as well as commercial success. Yet he remained philosophical, observing that “Risk-taking is an essential part of business. Louis B Mayer went bankrupt and, of course, Sam Goldwyn famously went bankrupt. They survived.”

      One of five children, Powell was born at Great Kingshill, Buckinghamshire, on November 4 1950. His health problems were triggered by an accident aged eight, when he crashed his father’s moped into the garden wall, injuring his head. Fits began, requiring treatment with regular doses of barbiturates and continuing regularly until the early 1990s, when they miraculously disappeared.

      Instead of succumbing to self-pity, Powell developed a fund of hilarious and dramatic stories of his affliction – of needing stitches over the lower part of his face and chin after falling through plate glass at the Virgin offices (“the wonder was that I did not decapitate myself”); of collapsing and cracking his head at a meeting with Harvey Weinstein; of being scraped off the pavement in New York by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, and of seeing the inside of numerous exclusive hospitals.

      Although he would later cheerfully admit to being at the heart of the rock’n’roll drugs scene, he claimed that his affliction meant that he never indulged in anything stronger than beer.

      Powell met Richard Branson at junior school in the 1950s. For secondary school the two went their separate ways, Branson to Stowe and Powell to Ampleforth. Instead of going on to university, however, Powell joined Branson in London at his first enterprise, the magazine Student – officially as deputy editor, in reality as the accountant.

      Still only 19, Powell resumed his education and won a place at Sussex University to read History. He lasted just two terms before Branson lured him back to help him establish the fledgling Virgin Records, which started out as a small mail order business, offering him 40 per cent of the company.

      The relationship fell apart in 1981 after 13 years, during which profits had risen from zero to more than £60 million. In his autobiography Branson claimed that the telltale sign that their relationship was nearing the rocks was Powell’s unwillingness to go on staff holidays.


      Cathy Tyson and Bob Hoskins in Mona Lisa (1986)
      CREDIT: MOVIESTORE COLLECTION/ALAMY

      Branson got the better of the divorce: Powell received £1 million and a few assets for his 40 per cent. Branson made that stake worth around £500 million within 15 years, yet Powell harboured no ill-feelings.

      At Virgin, Powell had been involved with making a couple of films, most notably The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle (1980) with the Sex Pistols. In 1979 he met Stephen Woolley, who was trying to save La Scala cinema in King’s Cross from closure. Powell made Virgin money available, and two years later, after leaving Virgin, he established a store called Video Palace in Kensington High Street and appointed Woolley to supervise the shop’s stock.

      In 1983 the pair founded Palace Pictures, which began as a film distribution company, expanding into production after a year. Its first film was Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984), a critical success, and the company went from strength to strength with hits such as Letter to Brezhnev (1985), Mona Lisa (1986) Scandal (1989), and The Crying Game (1992), which bagged an Oscar and became one of the highest-grossing British independent films ever.

      As distributors, Palace secured the rights to When Harry Met Sally (1989), scoring a major coup when they managed to get Diana, Princess of Wales, to attend the British premiere.

      Even before the release of The Crying Game, however, cracks were beginning to show. Funds had leaked away through subsidiary companies – loss-making minor concerns including an editing centre and video shops. Debts were mounting up, the early 1990s recession was in full swing and creditors’ patience was beginning to wear thin.

      In 1993, after an abortive attempt to sell Palace to PolyGram, the company collapsed, with debts variously estimated at anything up to £30 million owed to more than 200 creditors – a debacle described in Angus Finney’s The Egos Have Landed (1996). For Powell, however, the financial blow was put in the shade by the almost simultaneous collapse of his second marriage, to the barefoot pop singer Sandie Shaw, which left him, as he said at the time, “bankrupt, divorced and living
      in a bedsit".


      Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game (1992)
      CREDIT: MOVIESTORE COLLECTION/ALAMY

      Despite that blow he got back up, and a few months later he and Woolley had founded Scala. Within three years it had become Britain’s busiest independent production company, with credits that went on to include the Beatles biopic Backbeat (1994) Terence Davies’s The Neon Bible (1995), Fever Pitch (1997), Little Voice (1998), Last Orders (2001) and Ladies in Lavender (2004) starring Dame Judi Dench.

      In the meantime Powell became more and more involved with the British film industry as a whole. He was a member of the British Screen Advisory Council, served as chairman of the European Film Academy and was a prominent voice in the campaign for tax relief for the industry.

      None the less, there was shock when he announced that he was to wind down his production work and take over as director of the cash-strapped National Film and Television School.

      Over the over the next few years he led the NFTS to huge success, helping to devise a Bridges to Industry scheme to introduce NFTS talent to film companies and broadcasters and securing funding from the UK Film Council, the National Lottery and serious players in the industry.

      During his time as director NFTS students received four Oscar nominations, won seven Bafta awards and 10 Cilect Global Student Film awards. He also served as chair of Bafta’s film committee from 2010 to 2016. His popularity with staff and students at the NFTS is attested by the outpouring of affectionate tributes after his death on the NFTS website.

      Powell’s first wife, Merrill Tomassi, was an American, whom he met at the 1972 wedding of her sister, Kristen, to Richard Branson. Neither marriage lasted long. By his second marriage, to Sandie Shaw, he had a son and daughter who survive him.

      Nik Powell, born November 4 1950, died November 7 2019
      Last edited by Maurice; 11th November 2019, 08:45 PM.

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