The Firm (EastEnders)
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Role within EastEnders
The Firm, aka "Walford Investments", is first introduced to the show in 1986, and is represented by the sharp-suited Gregory Mantel (Pavel Douglas), the lackeys Brad Williams (Jonathan Stratt) and Joanne Francis (Pamela Salem), and the elusive boss Mr Vinnicombe.
The Firm owns Strokes wine bar, a front for illegal gambling, which is reluctantly managed by Den Watts (Leslie Grantham). It is thought by Mantel that Den, a well-known local publican, will not attract any suspicion to the illegal goings-on at the bar. The Firm is also responsible for a protection racket involving the bar's rival, The Dagmar, which they financially ruin when the bar's owner James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde) refuses to let them buy into the place. When Den wants revenge on Willmot-Brown for raping Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth), he persuades The Firm's Brad Williams to burn the place to the ground. This enrages The Firm's bosses, as it draws attention to the illegal gambling going on at Strokes.
Den is forced to take the blame for the fire at The Dagmar, and is remanded in custody, awaiting trial. The Firm mistakenly believe that Den has informed on them to the police while in prison, and so want him out of the way permanently. They capture him on the way to his trial with the intention of killing him. Den, with Brad's help, manages to escape, but is tracked down to the canal by Mantel. A Firm hitman shoots Den with a gun hidden in a bunch of daffodils, and he is believed to be dead but in fact escapes to Spain.
The Firm later discover this, and Vinnicombe is killed and his body is dumped in the canal to look like Den's (his teeth were bricked out to prevent identification). Vinnicombe's body is later recovered and, owing to some lazy police work (and false evidence planted by The Firm in order to save face), buried as Den's.
The Firm is re-introduced in 2003, and is represented by Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs), Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman), and the evil, sociopathic boss, Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett), who is said to have usurped control of The Firm from Vinnicombe and ordered Den's death. When Den survived the attempt on his life (which was initially thought to have been successful), Dalton had Vinnicombe murdered.
Dalton had taken a young Dennis Rickman under his wing, unaware that Dennis is the son Den Watts never knew he had. Dennis became a professional "hardman", and it is in this capacity that he landed himself a prison sentence for grievous bodily harm. Dalton wants Dennis dead, and so orders Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) to kill him. Dennis turns the tables on Phil, and persuades him to let him kill Dalton. Phil agrees, and Dennis confronts Dalton, who admits that it was he who had ordered for Den Watts to be killed. Dennis reveals the truth about his parentage to Dalton, before shooting him. Dalton's last act is to reveal the fact that Den had survived the attempt on his life.
News reaches Den Watts in Spain that Dalton is dead, and he returns to Walford in 2003. Andy replaces Dalton as the leader of The Firm. This is until Andy loses his position for being a "soft touch", and is thrown out of a moving car onto the doorstep of the Queen Victoria pub. Andy is subsequently killed by rival Johnny Allen (Billy Murray) when Andy tries to double-cross him on a deal. Ironically, Den Watts is finally murdered that same night, though at the hands of his wife Chrissie Watts (Tracy-Ann Oberman) in an unconnected incident.