Theatre's ultimate 'power couple', Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, have topped The Stage newspaper's annual list of the 100 most influential people in UK Theatre, published today (29 December 2009).

The husband and wife team are joint chief executives of Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), which earlier this year completed the £90million purchase of Live Nation's UK theatres (See News, 3 Nov 2009). The deal made ATG the UK's biggest commercial theatre operator in both the West End and UK regions.

Panter and Squire beat contenders including last year one and two, Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well Michael Grandage and Nicholas Hytner, artistic directors of the Donmar Warehouse and National Theatre respectively.

Newcomers in this year's top 20 include performers John Barrowman and Mark Rylance, the latter of whom enjoyed rave reviews for Jerusalem at the Royal Court, the artistic director of which, Dominic Cooke, was this year's highest riser on the list.

Elsewhere, Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey made the top ten for the first time, while Menier Chocolate Factory artistic director David Babani was also a top 20 newcomer.

Editor of The Stage 100, Alistair Smith, said: “Since its launch in 1997, The Stage 100 has been dominated by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. This is only the third occasion when neither has held the top spot.

“But Ambassador Theatre Group’s £90 million purchase of Live Nation’s UK venues has created a new theatrical superpower – the largest theatre operator of the modern era. In the regions, especially, it dwarfs all competition. The deal has been the biggest theatre story of 2009 and the largest theatre deal since Andrew Lloyd Webber bought his London venues in 2000.

“As such, Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, the married couple who together launched and continue to run ATG, were a shoo-in for the top spot. They will take some budging in future years.”

The full top twenty is as follows (last year’s position):

1. Howard Panter/Rosemary Squire (5)
2. Cameron Mackintosh (1)
3. Andrew Lloyd Webber (2)
4. Michael Grandage (3=)
5. Nicholas Hytner (3=)
6. Nica Burns / Max Weitzenhoffer (7)
7. Dominic Cooke (13)
8. Bill Kenwright (6)
9. Michael Boyd (8)
10. Kevin Spacey/ Sally Greene (11)
11. Nick Thomas / Jon Conway (9)
12= Sonia Friedman (12)
12= David Pugh / Dafydd Rogers (18)
14. David Babani (New Entry)
15. Jonathan Church (16)
16. Bill Taylor (15)
17. Rupert Goold (14)
18. Alex Poots (19)
19. John Barrowman (New Entry)
20. Mark Rylance (New Entry)

*New Entry denotes new entry into top 20, not Stage 100