George Harrison lived in financial comfort after rising to fame as a teenager. He was a successful musician for most of his life, but he dabbled in other industries as well. In the late 1970s, he and his business partner, Denis O’Brien, entered the film industry with their company, HandMade films. As they produced successful films, the company began to struggle. Harrison did not realize that the company’s financial difficulties meant that he was also in trouble.
The former Beatle used his house as collateral to fund ‘Life of Brian’
In 1978, the first funder of Life of Brian from Monty Python removed after reading the script. Desperate, actor Eric Idle came to Harrison for help. He knew Harrison was a Monty Python fan and had more money than most people he knew.
“Eric said that George had always been a big fan of Python, and that Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam had become friends with him,” producer John Goldstone told the LA Times. “So Eric said, ‘Why don’t we see if George could help?’ We went to his house in Hollywood Hills, and I don’t remember if we sent him the script or if he read it, but he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. And that was it.”
To finance the film, Harrison used his house as collateral.
“It wasn’t until years later that I learned from George that to raise the money he put his house on the line, and Denis put the premises of his house as collateral,” director Terry said. Jones, according to the book. very naughty boys by Robert Sellers. “So if I had known that I would have been a lot more worried about the outcome of the thing, but at the time I was just like, Oh, they’ve all got tons of money and everything’s fine. Well, I’m glad I don’t know.
George Harrison was in a difficult financial situation because of his business partner
Fortunately for Harrison, the film was a commercial success. HandMade films has become a major player in British cinema, releasing 23 films in 10 years. Not all of these films were as successful as Brian’s life, Nevertheless. In the late 1980s, HandMade was struggling to stay afloat. O’Brien hired an accountant, John Reiss, to look into their affairs. He discovered that Harrison was in a difficult position.
While Harrison thought he and O’Brien were equal financial partners, he essentially paid for everything himself. He trusted O’Brien, so he didn’t delve into anything as deeply as he should.
“Whenever Denis needed more money for movies he basically used George’s personal guarantee to secure the loan and George had no idea and of course the bank assumed he was mega -rich and they never checked and he had personal guarantees that were way above his net worth,” said Wendy Palmer of the movie HandMade.
Reiss and Harrison’s friend Ray Cooper went to Harrison’s to tell him about it.
“I told him most of his assets were in movies and properties, he had no liquid capital,” Reiss explained. “His portfolio was totally unbalanced in the sense that he didn’t have the resources to meet his daily needs, it was all celluloid and properties. He also didn’t have an old age pension. And then there were the contingent liabilities, bank guarantees not shared with Dennis. And he had also personally given completion guarantees on the films.
George Harrison didn’t want to believe he was in financial trouble
Reiss’ news was so disturbing that Harrison didn’t want to accept it.
“He really didn’t want to know and he practically kicked us out…even his old pal Ray,” Reiss said. “And that saddened me. I think he half knew it, he just didn’t want to hear the terrible news.
Palmer explained that Harrison always wanted to believe that everything was fine.
“George was the kind of person who shot the messenger because he didn’t want to know,” she said. “He wanted to believe that everything was fine and well.”
Eventually, Harrison accepted the bad news. He sued O’Brien and a court awarded him $11 million.
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