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The BBC's Peter Morgan
"Heads will roll"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Dome chief resigns
Ayling departs
Bob Ayling departs after tendering his resignation
The Millennium Dome's most senior executive, Bob Ayling, has resigned.

His departure was expected following the Millennium Commission's demand that he go as a condition for giving the struggling attraction a further 29m of National Lottery money.

Mr Ayling, the former head of British Airways, resigned as chairman of the New Millennium Experience Company at a board meeting on Tuesday.

The Commission was concerned that the Dome's managment had not kept a firm enough grip on finances. The attraction has already received 509m of lottery money and almost all of the last 60m instalment paid in January has been spent.

Lord Falconer, the minister with responsibility for the Dome, said his resignation had been accepted "reluctantly".

New business plan

A spokesman for the Millennium Commission said: "The chairman is the only person who has been required to depart, but we have also requested a strengthening of the finance team, including a Millennium Commission monitor being in place at NMEC."

In addition, the Dome's new business plan must place greater emphasis on cost savings and marketing.

Mr Ayling emerged from the MNEC's headquarters after two hours, 50 minutes, but he declined to answer any questions.

Lord Falconer walked with Mr Ayling to his car, where the two men shook hands.

"See you later", Mr Ayling said, before driving off.

Bob Ayling is expected to offer his resignation at a meeting on Tuesday
Bob Ayling is the Dome's second high-profile resignation
The Millennium Commission offered its cash injection on Monday but warned there would be "stringent conditions" attached.

It is concerned the present management has not kept a firm enough grip on the Dome's finances.

The attraction has already had 509m of lottery money and almost all the last 60m instalment paid in January has been spent.

A spokesman for the Millennium Commission said: "The chairman is the only person who has been required to depart, but we have also requested a strengthening of the finance team, including a Millennium Commission monitor being in place at NMEC."

'Serious reservations'

In addition, the Dome's new business plan must place greater emphasis on cost savings and marketing.

The commission said it had had "serious reservations" about providing the money but had decided it would be "foolish to withdraw support when the best of the year is yet to come".

"The value of the Dome as the centrepiece of the nation's millennium celebrations should be recognised and continued," it added.


Pierre-Yves Gerbeau: "Definitely" the last appeal
A NMEC spokesman said he could not comment on whether or not Mr Ayling would be resigning, but confirmed that a meeting to discuss the commission's package would take place on Tuesday.

Earlier, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, the Millennium Dome's chief executive, welcomed the commission's "vote of confidence" but expressed concerns that the full 38.6m requested had not been forthcoming.

And he insisted it was "definitely" the last time the Dome would ask for more funds.

"I am seeking the opportunity to draw a line in the sand," he said.

The new business plan is based on what organisers believe are realistic estimates of the number of likely visitors, many fewer than the 12m originally predicted.

'Patronising the public'

But the cash injection could be reduced if an eventual buyer of the site agrees to pay in advance, or even take control of the Dome before the end of the year.

Shadow Culture Secretary Peter Ainsworth said that many people would feel "a sense of outrage" at the extra money being spent on the attraction.

"I'm concerned that lottery money is now being used to save the government's face," he said. Mr Ayling's departure is the second high-profile casualty for the Dome - in February chief executive Jennie Page was forced to resign after a disastrous opening night and disappointing early attendances.

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