Back in 2003, the Empire's building contractor Sunley Turriff Construction went bust during a refurbishment project, with more than £1m worth of work remaining incomplete, and subcontractors and suppliers unpaid. The Empire appealed to the construction company’s guarantor, Aviva (then called Norwich Union) who refused to pay its £1.1m bond, citing a number of technical defences.
Helped by Hackney-born entrepreneur Lord Sugar and solicitors CMS Cameron McKenna, the Hackney Empire challenged Aviva in court, winning in both July 2011 and on the insurance company's appeal in December last year. A second appeal was rejected in March and interest on the original claim was declared at £470,000. Aviva's final appeal was rejected by the high court this week.
Clarie Middleton, chief executive of the Empire, said, "This win against Aviva is of enormous significance to Hackney Empire and sets the seal on a new chapter in the organisation's history. It has allowed us to clear balance sheet debt that has been hanging over the company since Aviva's initial refusal to pay out on its insurance bond in 2004.
Middleton also thanked Alan Sugar "for his consistent generous support of the Empire and the litigation process" and solicitor Rupert Choat, who represented the theatre on a no-win, no-fee basis.