Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s NatWest unit froze the estate of late British Broadcasting Corp. television star Jimmy Savile in anticipation of possible legal claims alleging he sexually abused girls for decades.
“Given the claims raised, distribution of the estate has been put on hold,” NatWest said today in an e-mailed statement. The bank has been the executor for Savile’s assets since the former host of a popular BBC children’s program, “Jim’ll Fix It,” died last year at the age of 84.
London police are probing allegations that Savile may have abused more than 300 people as early as 1959, sometimes in collusion with other adults. The BBC, the world’s largest public broadcaster, is running internal probes and cooperating with police and lawmakers investigating the alleged incidents.
The estate may be sued by alleged victims who “only have claims against Savile himself” instead of the BBC or other entities, said Liz Dux, a lawyer at Russell Jones & Walker Solicitors, who is representing at least 20 people.
U.K. lawyers including David Foster, with Barlow Robbins LLP in Guildford, England, who isn’t involved in the cases, have said the BBC could face years of litigation and suffer reputational damage for allegedly failing to protect children from Savile. Hospitals and children’s homes where Savile is suspected of accessing youths could also be sued.
The scandal was brought to light in a documentary by broadcaster ITV Plc last month that featured several women accusing the host of BBC’s “Top of the Pops” music show of sexual abuse when they were teens. Savile, who was knighted in 1990, granted children’s wishes, such as meeting celebrities, on the “Jim’ll Fix It” show.
Savile retained his popularity in Britain after the shows ended, using his fame to promote charity work that gave him access to children. Savile, a friend of Prince Charles who stayed at Margaret Thatcher’s country home when she was prime minister, died a year ago last month, two days before his 85th birthday. The Guardian newspaper’s obituary described him as the “eccentric king of children’s TV.”
The asset freeze was reported yesterday by the Financial Times.