West end theatre giant ATG brings curtain up on purchase of pandemic-hit US venues

·2-min read

The West End entertainment giant behind the Piccadilly and Apollo theatres is placing a bold bet on the industry's recovery on the other side of the Atlantic with the acquisition of a handful of prominent venues.

Sky News understands that Ambassador Theatre Group has struck a deal to buy the Golden Gate Theatre and Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, and the Fisher Theatre in Detroit - both of which are key cities for touring Broadway productions.

The transaction, which is expected to be announced later on Monday, will also see ATG buying the programming operation of Detroit's Opera House and Music Hall venues.

It represents another significant vote of confidence by ATG and its majority shareholder, Providence Equity Partners, in the post-pandemic prospects of an industry which has been left on its knees for the last 12 months.

The UK theatre industry is hopeful of a return to live performances with audiences during the summer, although the timetable will remain subject to the influence of further COVID-19 outbreaks.

ATG is buying its latest crop of US venues from The Nederlander Company, which was founded by one of the most important dynasties in the American live entertainment sector.

The deal comes just months after ATG's shareholders sold a small stake to TEG, an Australian live entertainment and ticketing business.

Between them, TEG and Providence, which had already injected tens of millions of pounds to support ATG through the pandemic's initial stages, provided a total of £160m of new equity to the company.

ATG owns many of the most historic theatres in London, including the Lyceum and Savoy, as well as many other famous sites in Britain, Germany and the US.

Its wider UK portfolio includes Liverpool's Empire Theatre, and the Duke of York's Theatre in London, while on Broadway in Manhattan, it owns the Lyric and Hudson.

The company has a workforce of more than 4000 full-time equivalent employees.

ATG theatres have been home to some of the world's most successful plays and musicals, including The Lion King, Les Miserables and Wicked.

The company was founded in the 1990s by the husband-and-wife team Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire, who have since gone on to set up a rival theatrical group.

ATG is now run by Mark Cornell, who joined the company four years ago after a successful career at companies including the luxury goods owner LVMH and Sotheby's, the auctioneer.

Providence bought ATG in 2013 in a £350m deal, and has since overseen a big increase in revenues and profits, with massive hit shows including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The US-based buyout firm had been preparing to run a sale process for the business during the course of last year, hiring the investment banks Goldman Sachs and Jefferies to oversee an auction.

That process was put on hold as a result of the pandemic.

Providence declined to comment on Monday.