Exclusive: ATG to complete £92m Live Nation buy-out

The Stage can reveal that the Ambassador Theatre Group will this weekend complete the purchase of Live Nation’s UK venues for £92 million, making it by far Britain’s biggest theatre operator.

The final details of the bid are being confirmed this weekend, with a formal announcement of the sale and official handover due to be confirmed on Monday November 2. It will mark the final step in a long process, which was launched back in June when – as revealed by The Stage – Live Nation took the decision to put the entirety of its UK theatre empire of 17 venues up for sale.

At that time, there were several potential bidders interested in the portfolio, including Dutch entertainment giant Stage Entertainment and the US-based Key Brand Entertainment. However, it has been ATG – the largest British-based theatre operator – which has been successful, securing the vast majority of Live Nation’s UK venues.

In the West End, this includes the Lyceum and Apollo Victoria Theatres, but not the Dominion, with Live Nation’s stake in that theatre being bought by the Nederlander Group.

Other venues included in the deal are the Oxford Apollo, Oxford Old Fire Station, Edinburgh Playhouse, Manchester Opera House, Manchester Palace, Bristol Hippodrome, Alexandra Birmingham, York Grand Opera House, Liverpool Empire, Sunderland Empire, Southport, Grimsby Auditorium, Spa Pavilion Felixstowe and the Leas Cliff Hall.

Following the completion of the sale, ATG will manage more than 11,000 seats in the West End – more than any other theatre operator – and nearly 38,000 seats outside London. The next largest theatre operator in the regions – HQ Theatres – will control only around 8,000 seats by comparison. In total ATG will manage nearly 50,000 seats and 37 theatres across the country, making it by far the largest theatre operator of the last half century. It has not yet been confirmed where funding for ATG’s bid has come from, although it is understood that the company has used outside finance.

The sale, which has been long anticipated by the UK market, forms part of an ongoing strategy by Live Nation to focus on its live music operation, selling off non-core assets such as its theatre venues to help fund expansion in this area. The global live entertainment group previously sold its US theatres in a $90 million deal to Key Brand Entertainment in 2007.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs, which oversaw the US sale, has also handled the UK bidding.

For more on this story, see next week’s print edition of The Stage.

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster