The wood-panelled theatre where Michael Faraday presented his annual Christmas lectures on chemistry, electricity and magnetism could be up for sale, along with the rest of the London headquarters of the esteemed Royal Institution (RI).
According to a report in The Times, the West London property on Albemarle Street will soon be listed by a real estate agency for upwards of £60 million (US$95 million).
The move follows years of financial turmoil and internal strife at the RI, which Nature reported on in 2010 (see ‘Revolution crushed at Royal Institution’): “A refurbishment of the RI’s central London headquarters costing £22 million (US$34 million) has caused a shortfall in funds, and, some say, leaves the institution in danger of closing.”
The two-century-old institution’s books have not apparently got much better. According to its 2011 financial report, it is £7.1 million in debt and received a £3-million loan and another £2 million in overdraft allowances from the bank HSBC. “The charity is reliant on overdraft and bank loan facilities, which are reviewed on an annual basis and will be reviewed again in March 2013,” the report says. That year, the RI reported £4.49 million in expenses against £4.38 million in income.
In a statement today, RI chairman Richard Sykes confirmed that the sale of the Albemarle Street building was being considered:
The RI and its advisers are exploring a range of options to ensure it can continue to pursue fully its charitable aims and deploy its resources optimally. It is clear that this is likely to involve a restructuring of the charity and, ideally, a substantial partnership. It may also involve the RI sub-letting or disposing of some or all of its Albemarle Street property.