Jimmy Savile's estate insolvent

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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I read an article in The Times about the litigation against Jimmy Savile. Apparently the deceased celebrity's estate has now run out of cash.

The executor of the estate was the Nat West Bank, and they appointed a firm of solicitors, Osborne Clarke in the administration. Osborne Clarke's fees were claimed at £1.8 million. 

How did this bill come about?

Mr Savile's estate was the subject of some major litigation. First there were a group of individuals who alleged that they had been abused by Jimmy Savile. They brought personal injury claims against his estate.

Some of the Claimants had claims against other defendants with whom Jimmy Savile was associated: the BBC, certain NHS hospital trusts and the charities Barnardo's and Mind.  It is understood that other organisations, such as the NHS and the BBC settled a part of these claims, but it was agreed that the estate would also contribute.  

The next set of competing claims came from those charities to whom Jimmy Savile had made bequests.  They were looking at losing those gifts if the monies were distributed to victims. There was also a relation of Mr Savile who had been the subject of a bequest from him.

To complicate matters further, those organisations who were potentially liable to victims of Jimmy Savile indicated that they would be claiming against his estate for their losses. 

The dispute over the estate came before Mr Justice Sales in the Chancery Division of the High Court, in a series of hearings in 2013 and 2014, the last of which was In the estate of Jimmy Savile [2014] EWHC 1683 (Ch). The trustees of the Savile Estate attempted to remove the Bank as executor, but ultimately failed. A Scheme was set up to distribute the monies in the estate and this was approved by Justice Sales.  

Sales J said that the Nat West Bank was "a professional executor of good repute" which was capable of being neutral and impartial in administering the estate as between the different competing interests. It had also established a track record of effective and appropriate administration of the estate in the unusual and testing circumstances of this case.

Finally Sales J said:

"The negotiation of the Scheme has required a good deal of give and take between the parties to the negotiations, in the course of which the PI Claimants and the Third Party Defendants have developed confidence in the fair approach of the Bank to handling the claims. The Scheme provides a general framework, but its effective implementation in seeking to arrive at as many settlements of valid and meritorious claims as possible, to facilitate ultimate distributions from the estate, will also depend on effective co-operation between the parties going forward."

The Jimmy Savile litigation demonstrates the guiding principle of claims against individuals or their estate. There is only ever so much money in the "pot" to go around and consequently early resolution (if possible) of the litigation is always desirable even though it may mean that victims are under compensated. 

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Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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