The European arm of musical licensing company Music Theatre International was officially launched in the West End yesterday.

Music Theatre International is one of the biggest theatrical licensing agencies in the world and was originally co-founded by Broadway songwriter Frank Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker. The company is now owned by Cameron Mackintosh and Freddie Gershon and MTI licenses more than 4,800 productions a year to professional theatres, amateur societies and schools.

At the MTI (Europe) launch, Mackintosh said: "It's hard to believe I first met Freddie nearly 28 years ago... The only difficulty we had was that Freddie and I operated on nothing but a handshake. When it came to employing president of MTI Drew Cohen, we had to write a contract. The result has been that Drew is now part of our family and he will carry the company on to its future with Sean Gray, the managing director of MTI Europe."

Based in the London offices of Josef Weinberger Ltd, MTI Europe licenses musical theatre for regional theatres, independent touring producers, opera companies, summer theatres, fringe theatre, amateur, youth and school theatre in Britain and for all non-replica theatre across Europe.

Gray said: "Besides just issuing licenses, so much of what we do is embrace, enhance and build on the longevity of the shows that we are proud to represent. It is about making these shows last well into the future."

Last month MTI (Europe) launched its first Junior Theatre Celebration at the Curve theatre in Leicester, where schools and youth groups from across the UK and Ireland participated in a day-long programme of workshops and performances.