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Lloyd Webber Keeps Theatres, Deal Collapses

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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group today (Saturday 11 December 2010) announced that the estimated £50 million deal to sell four of its West End theatres to GradeLinnit, the company newly formed by former BBC and ITV chairman Michael Grade and theatrical agent Michael Linnit, has fallen through due to a contractual obligation with one of the venues. After an unsolicited approach from GradeLinnit earlier this year, the sale was announced in October and had been due to be completed next month.

The four, mid-sized theatres in question, amounting to 4,900 seats overall, are: the 1100-seat New London (currently home to War Horse), the 1200-seat Her Majesty’s (The Phantom of the Opera), the 1200-seat Cambridge (Chicago) and the 1400-seat Palace (Priscilla Queen of the Desert). They will remain with RUG and become part of a new division within the company.

A press statement issued by RUG today explained that the breakdown was not down to any haggling over valuations. “At the 11th hour, GradeLinnit raised issues relating to a long-standing contractual agreement between one of the theatres and a production company about a possible future production. GradeLinnit decided that they would not want to take this contract forward as owners of the theatre. The Really Useful Group has chosen to continue with the agreement and therefore the sale will not be going ahead.”

Neither the relevant theatre nor the future show has been named. According to RUG, all four theatres “continue to trade very strongly” in “their best ever season” and “a number of other approaches” for their purchase have been received.

At the time of the GradeLinnit announcement, Andrew Lloyd Webber said the decision to sell the four theatres, all of which he has personal connections to, had been “totally gut-wrenching” but that he’d been advised to “reduce the debt in the family company” following his diagnosis of prostate cancer last year. “My commitment to composing, producing and theatre ownership remains as strong as ever,” he said.

As before the negotiations, RUG also still retains its two largest musical houses, both circa 2,300 seats – the London Palladium (where Lloyd Webber’s own, TV-cast production of The Wizard of Oz opens in February) and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (where Oliver! gives way to Shrek in the new year) – as well as its 50% stake in the Adelphi Theatre (home to Lloyd Webber’s Phantom follow-up Love Never Dies), which it co-owns with the US-based Nederlander Group.


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