Ex-ITV boss Sir Lew Grade ‘bribed Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson with a Rolls Royce and Portugal villa to buy the hit show in a cut-price deal’, Anderson’s stepdaughter claims

  • Dee Anderson’s mother and stepfather Sylvia and Gerry Anderson created Thunderbirds in the 1950s
  • Dee says Gerry woefully undervalued’ the show when he sold the TV rights to it in 1962 for £110,000
  • Now 68, Dee says the deal made TV firms ‘millions’ while her mum was left out of pocket
  • Dee says Gerry cut her mother out of the deal and airbrushed her out of the history of Thunderbirds
  • Sylvia, who was the voice of Lady Penelope, spent the rest of her life struggling with money, even remortgaging her house
  • She says that Gerry was bribed by ex-ITV boss Sir Lew Grade to buy the show, but her mother was cut out of the deal 

Dee Anderson is fighting ITV over the deal to sell the Thunderbirds’ TV rights in 1962

Thunderbirds co-creator Gerry Anderson received bribes from former ITV boss Sir Lew Grade in exchange for selling the rights to the iconic puppet series in a cut-price deal, claims his stepdaughter.

Dee Anderson, 68, alleges Gerry was gifted a Rolls Royce and a villa in Portugal ‘away from the books’ after he sold the TV rights for £110,000 in 1962 – a deal which made ITV ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’.

She made the claims as part of her bid to receive retrospective financial compensation from the broadcaster after her mother Sylvia, Gerry’s ex-wife who co-created Thunderbirds with him, barely made any money from the TV hit after being left out of financial negotiations ‘purely because she was a woman’.

Speaking to MailOnline, she said: ‘We have proof Gerry received these gifts from Lew Grade which goes some way to explaining why the deal to sell the rights to Thunderbirds was incredibly low. 

‘If these gifts were made in today’s world both Lew and Gerry would fall foul of the Bribery Act. Gerry basically sold out for a Rolls Royce. 

Sylvia, who passed away in 2016 – four years after Gerry, lived out her life in financial difficulty, having to remortgage her house in Brays, Berkshire, to help with repairs. 

Gerry Anderson (pictured in 2005) died in 2012 aged 83. He sold the TV rights to Thunderbirds in 1962 for £110,000. His stepdaughter Dee, 68, claims he woefully undervalued it

Dee’s mother Sylvia Anderson, who produced the series and was the voice of Lady Penelope, was cut out of the deal before her acrimonious divorce from Gerry, according to Dee

The classic British series centred around the missions of the International Rescue team who were based on the fictional Tracey Island, where they kept their fleet of Thunderbird machines

Gerry, by contrast, lived comfortably in his Oxfordshire cottage with third wife while his company Anderson Entertainment profited from the Thunderbirds brand.

Dee says money ‘should never have been a problem’ for her mother after co-creating Thunderbirds, a global phenomenon which spawned spin-offs including Captain Scarlet and Stingray, but she was badly let down by Gerry who conducted business deals on their behalf and ensured only himself would benefit financially – despite her being a shareholder in their firm.

Ex-ITV boss Sir Lew Grade bought the rights to Thunderbirds from Anderson in 1962

She claims an ‘old boys network’ at ATV, before it turned into ITV, led by Grade agreed a deal to buy the Andersons’ production company AP Films for £110,000, and the subsequent rights to its shows, despite its market value being significantly higher.

Sylvia’s name was also left out of credits for later adaptations of Thunderbirds, a deal allegedly struck by Gerry following their acrimonious split in 1975, when he sold the rest of their production firm to British production company ITC and ATV for just under £15,000 in 1975 – without her consent. 

In the second deal in the seventies, as part of it he gave back the villa, which they then found out he secured as part of the original 1962 exchange. 

In his 2002 authorised biography What Made Thunderbirds Go!, Gerry told how he was given a ‘brand new, navy blue, gleaming Silver Shadow Rolls Royce’ by Grade in the basement car park of his office.

Dee also alleges ITV have never discussed her bid for financial retrospective action over the 1962 deal, despite claiming to have conducted a ‘prolonged dialogue’ with her for several years.

Dee added: ‘ITV say they have been speaking to me at length but have yet to entertain the financial aspect of my case.

‘I’m doing this for my mother and her legacy, while also hoping other women who were victims of sexism in the film and TV industry will be inspired to come forward and fight for what they deserve.’

Dee says that Anderson was given this Rolls Royce, pictured in front of a Portugal villa he was also gifted as part of the £110,000 deal in 1962 to sell the Thunderbirds TV rights 

Dee seen as a teenager with her mum Syvia and stepfather Gerry. Sylvia struggled financially, having to re-mortgage her house, having not benefitted from the Thunderbirds deal 

An ITV spokesman said: ‘ITV values our long-standing relationship with Dee Anderson and her family and we have done everything asked of us by Dee to commemorate her mother’s creative contribution.

‘This includes giving credits to Sylvia Anderson on Thunderbirds related content and working with press, PR and licensees to include her in our marketing and product. We will continue to do so, especially given Sylvia’s important creative contribution to the 2015 reboot of the franchise, Thunderbirds Are Go.

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