Though best known for his long-running international hits such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, theatrical composer and impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber (pictured) has frequently spoken of the need to develop new stage productions - now he's really putting his money where his mouth is.

Today he launches Theatreshare plc, a theatrical investment and production company that will work in close conjunction with Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres (RUT), the country's largest theatre owner.

Theatreshare, now is in the process of raising an estimated £2 million, aims to develop a wide variety of productions - from new work by established writers and composers to revivals and adaptations - that can then be routed into RUT's 13 West End venues, including the London Palladium, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the Gielgud, the Queen's and the Lyric Theatres.

The new company, headed by Andre Ptaszynski (as managing director) and writer and actor Stephen Fry (as chairman), is scheduled to commence trading this spring. The Theatreshare non-executive board will include Lloyd Webber as well as veteran West End producer Michael Codron and City superstar Nicola Horlick, founder of SG Asset Management. Producer Nica Burns and outgoing National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn will serve as consultants while, on the list of patrons, are actors Maureen Lipman, Fiona Shaw and Richard Wilson as well as comedienne Dawn French, Four Weddings creator Richard Curtis and Oliviers presenter Clive Anderson.

Theatreshare intends to put its weight behind approximately 10 to 12 new productions a year, including at least two or three musicals. Already on the investment roster are three upcoming musicals - the adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (opening at the Palladium this April), Bombay Dreams (opening at the Apollo Victoria in June) and the transfer of Broadway hit The Producers (expected sometime next year).

Investors are currently being sought, with a minimum investment of £2,500 required. That will buy investors complimentary tickets, invitations to an annual reception, programme credits and a bespoke ticket-buying service, amongst other benefits.

Commenting on the launch of Theatreshare, Stephen Fry said: "Commercial theatre is one of Britain's great success stories. Last year, nearly 12 million people went to the theatre in the West End, which represents about 40,000 people a day, whatever the weather. This new company is an exciting opportunity for theatregoers and investors to be a closer part of this."

Ptaszynski added: "Really Useful Theatres has one of the most successful track records of theatre ownership and productions in the world and this alliance provides an opportunity for all types of investors - large and small - to be propelled straight into the heart of West End theatre production. At the same time, through Theatreshare plc, investors will be helping guarantee the future of playwriting and production not only in London but in the regions and overseas."

- by Terri Paddock