O2 Goes To Uni ?

The battle to buy London’s O2 Arena is likely to be won by Cambridge’s richest college, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The paper says Trinity College, the largest of the city’s university colleges with an extensive property portfolio that includes the local science park and part of Felixstowe Docks, is set to pay more than £20 million for the old Millennium Dome.

It’s believed negotiations with Quintain Estates and Lend Lease, co-owners of the property, have been going on for several weeks.

The O2 is known to have been on the market for a couple of months, but a sale won’t affect the long-term lease that AEG has to operate the building.

Trinity’s interest may surprise some observers but the college, historically the Royals’ preferred educational establishment, has benefited from gifts of land through the centuries and is certainly the wealthiest of the Oxbridge colleges. The science park land was given to Trinity by Henry VIII, when he founded the college in 1546.

Figures from 2005 showed it had an independent financial endowment of approximately £621 million (US$1.1 billion), £75 million (US$ 125 million) of it set aside as part of the college’s Amalgamated Trust Fund, which is dedicated for specific purposes. Trinity’s land, including its holdings in the Port of Felixstowe and the Cambridge Science Park, is insured for approx. £266.5 million (US$445 million).

The Times claims the owners are keen to push the deal through as previous bidders including a Middle East consortium have already backed off.

The ownership of the site is complicated by the fact the land belongs to English partnerships, now part of the Homes And Communities Agency, which would be entitled to a share of any profits.

It wasn’t possible to get comment from Quintain or Trinity College at press time.