Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, joint chief executives of Ambassador Theatre Group, have topped this year’s Stage 100, beating competition from both Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
It marks the first time that the pair have been placed at number one in the power list and follows ATG’s acquisition, earlier this year, of Live Nation’s UK theatres, which they purchased for £90 million.
The deal made ATG the biggest theatre operator in both the West End and UK regions. It now controls around 50,000 theatre seats across the UK – nearly five times the closest competition.
Alistair Smith, news and opinion editor of The Stage and editor of The Stage 100, 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 ATG’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.”
It marks only the second time that a female entrant has been placed at number one. The other was Janet Holmes a Court, who came top in January 1998 when she was head of what was then the West End’s largest theatre group, Stoll Moss.
This year’s top 20 features two new entries – performers Mark Rylance and John Barrowman – while producer David Babani returns to the top 20 for the first time since 2006.
The highest climber is Dominic Cooke, who rises six places to number seven, capping a superb year for the Royal Court Theatre, of which he is artistic director.
Meanwhile, Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey makes the top 10 for the first time.
Other big names making the full list include Jude Law, Sam Mendes, Trevor Nunn, Michael Ball, Ian McKellen, Rachel Weisz and Alan Bennett.
Regional Theatre is also strongly represented, with artistic directors from Manchester, Chichester, Liverpool and Bath – among many others – all making the list.
The full list appears in the special Stage 100 issue of The Stage, dated December 30, 2009.