ATG appoints RUG’s McFarlane to lead expansion in Asia Pacific

Tim McFarlane. Photo: Atsutoshi Shimosaka
Tim McFarlane. Photo: Atsutoshi Shimosaka
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Ambassador Theatre Group is to launch an office in Sydney to oversee the company’s expansion in the Asia Pacific region.

The office will be led by Tim McFarlane as chief executive for ATG Asia Pacific. He joins ATG having occupied a similar role as managing director for the Really Useful Company Asia Pacific, where he has worked for 18 years, producing shows including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and, most recently, Love Never Dies. ATG, which is the UK’s largest theatre owner and operator, also has a New York office that it opened in 2007.

ATG joint chief executive and creative director Howard Panter told The Stage that the Sydney office would oversee expansion both in terms of productions and venue acquisitions in the region.

He said ATG wanted to create a “coherent distribution network” for touring shows, adding it was already looking at venues in Australia and was “well down the path of a new theatre in Hong Kong”.

“We’re delighted to have someone with such a great track record as Tim,” Panter added. “He has developed the Asia Pacific market in a way that nobody else has, consistently over a period of time in those territories.

“It will be entirely replicating the ATG model [in Asia Pacific]. The vertically integrated model – buildings, owning and operating them, ticketing, education, marketing, productions, operations – the whole package that ATG has developed so successfully. He will be in charge of that expansion programme and linking into our international touring programme.”

McFarlane will take up his new role after leaving RUG in March. Prior to joining RUG, he was general manager of the Adelaide Festival from 1986 to 1994. He told The Stage he thought there were “huge opportunities” for ATG in the region, especially as venue operator.

He said: “The whole Asia Pacific region is the most dynamic part of the world at the moment, and I see that only getting stronger and stronger. That includes China and Korea and Taiwan and Hong Kong and Singapore and the Philippines. It’s a fantastic part of the world to be in, and Australia is very fortunate to be positioned very close to that region.

“There are huge opportunities for ATG in this dynamic region. In many of the areas where I’ve toured shows over the last 18 or so years, there is often only one major theatre in the market, so there is a real shortage of venues. Hong Kong, for example, has plans for the development of major theatres, but at the moment there are only two theatres of a suitable size for musicals.”

• Meanwhile, Really Useful has announced that Kerry Comerford will be promoted to vice president of Really Useful Company Asia Pacific, following McFarlane’s departure.

Barney Wragg, RUG managing director, said: “Kerry has been with our company for over 17 years and has proved herself to be an outstanding executive, both in terms of her creativity, business acumen and people skills.”

Patrick Murphy, vice president of production for RUG, will now assume responsibility for productions and licensing in Japan, in addition to his existing responsibilities in Europe and the US.

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