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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
ITV Digital monkey under the hammer
More than 100 monkeys were being auctioned

There was a time when a knitted monkey came free if you bought an ITV Digital package.

But once the administrators and auctioneers moved into the failed pay-TV company's old headquarters, the tables were turned.

We're owed a couple of thousand pounds and we want to see them get the best prices

Ben Baird
Aquarium Studios
It is the monkeys that are fetching money now - on Wednesday the first of the knitted mascots to be auctioned was snapped up for 150.

While the sale went on downstairs, nearly 30 of the monkeys were crowded into ITV Digital's second floor boardroom, with others dotted around the offices.

They were among more than 3,500 lots being auctioned to help settle some of the pay-TV company's debts.

Framed football shirts

Monkeys were being sold individually or as part of a lot including a leather upholstered armchair.

In one glass-fronted office, boxes of the mascots were heaped on a table while propped up below was a framed Crystal Palace football shirt, signed by the team.

Office desk
Desks were auctioned first

Alongside were framed shirts from fellow First Division clubs now struggling with their finances because of the collapse of their television rights deal.

ITV Digital mugs were heaped in a corner.

A handful of prospective bidders moved through the big open plan office where computers, desks, chairs and filing cabinets had been divided into lots.

'A couple of quid' for monkey

Ben Baird and John Hinde, from Aquarium Studios had come to bid but also to see what sort of prices were being achieved.

"We used to do work for ITV Digital. We're owed a couple of thousand pounds and we want to see them get the best prices," said Mr Baird.

The Enron stuff was far superior

Simon Hayward

As well as the office furniture, there were televisions, edit suites and other broadcasting equipment up for auction.

Mr Baird was planning to bid for an edit suite which he had helped to modify.

He liked the idea of a monkey souvenir "but we wouldn't pay more than a couple of quid for one," he said.

Enron was better

The auction was being conducted at ITV Digital's old offices, just along from Battersea Power Station on the Thames.

There is no-one left to drink coffee

About 200 bidders took their seats in the temporary auction room at the start of the two day sale.

But another 900 - from 15 different countries - had registered to bid online.

About half of the bidders were interested in buying office furniture and the other half had their eyes on the TV equipment.

Simon Hayward, from Meditech, was interested in servers, printers, furniture and edit equipment.

"The quality is not actually that good," he said.

"I went to the Enron auction too and the Enron stuff was far superior. A lot of this is pretty tired.

"We're after some of the big edit suites but the equipment is not super cutting-edge," he added.

Pushing up prices

One item which did catch his eye was a table football game.

It looked like one of the best-used pieces of equipment there, complete with ITV Digital stickers on the side.

But with the auction being conducted on the web as well as at the offices, Mr Hayward feared that prices would be pushed too high.

I'm determined to get at least one [monkey]

Chris Mitchell, Pathfinder Pictures

"At the Enron auction people bidding over the internet were paying way over the odds for plasma screen TVs because they had no idea of their true value.

"Internet bidders tend to inflate prices," he said.

"That's the idea," said auctioneer Matt Hardy from Wyles Hardy & Co.

"Of course we're keen to push the prices up, we are here to maximise the prices to the benefit of the creditors," he added.

Definitely not a monkey

The first lots to be sold were pairs of beech veneer workstations, fetching about 240 each.

Chris Mitchell, of Pathfinder Pictures bought several of the workstations for his new offices at Elstree studios.

On Digital set-top boxes were in the sale

He was also interested in some of the editing equipment.

"It's the balance of trying to get the right price and they seemed to have mixed new stuff with old stuff in the same lots.

The monkeys were also on his list.

"I'm determined to get at least one, but they're 25 in the Gadget Shop so I don't want to pay much more than that," he said.

Shortly after the auction got underway one internet bidder got carried away with his desire to get a monkey.

The auctioneer brought him in at 280 for two workstations.

"Is that for a monkey?" asked the bidder, identified only as Carmichael.

"It's definitely not for a monkey," said the auctioneer.

Wyles Hardy & Co and Dovebird's auction
held at ITV Digital's former HQ in Battersea

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