Andrew Lloyd Webber has signed a deal to buy back full control of his company, the Really Useful Group (RUG), from Hollywood studio Universal for $75 million, it was announced yesterday. Lloyd Webber is now, reportedly, planning to construct a Las Vegas-based musicals themed hotel which will house three theatres showing his and other composers' musicals around the clock.

Lloyd Webber already owned a 70 percent stake in RUG, but Universal procured the 30 percent remainder as part of its acquisition last year of Polygram, the music and film group. With yesterday's purchase, Lloyd Webber will, for the first time in his life, own 100 percent copyright of all of his musicals, which include Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects of Love, Starlight Express and Whistle Down the Wind.

In a statement, Lloyd Webber said that this made RUG 'unique in the theatre business' and that the company would 'go forward as a truly independent home for writers, musicians and all creative artists.' As part of the deal, RUG will continue to work with Universal via extensions to their existing music, video, television and distribution deals. Upcoming joint projects include the release of a definitive box set of Lloyd Webber recordings and a video of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Other possible expansion plans for RUG, which turned a £12.5 million last year, include further releases of pop star sung Lloyd Webber singles and Internet developments as well as the Las Vegas hotel.

Heads of agreement were signed by Universal and RUG this weekend. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of June 1999.