Ambassador Theatre Group has confirmed that it has confirmed that it has been sold to private equity firm Providence Equity.
The cost of the deal has not been confirmed, but ATG is understood to have been valued at between £250 million and £350 million. This would make the deal the largest ever brokered for a UK theatre company.
Providence has taken on a majority stake in the company with ATG’s previous main investor, Exponent, retaining an 18% stake.
Exponent will continue to work with Providence and the existing management team including ATG’s joint chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire. Greg Dyke will continue in his role as ATG chairman.
Providence bills itself as “the world’s leading private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments”. It manages funds with $37 billion in commitments and has invested in more than 130 companies globally since its inception in 1989.
Prior to the sale, Exponent had been ATG’s majority shareholder since 2009 when the company acquired Live Nation’s UK theatres.
Panter and Squire issued the following statement: “We’re thrilled with today’s announcement and very pleased to be working alongside Providence in taking ATG into the next exciting phase of its development.
“This new partnership cements the foundations for the company’s planned future growth. Providence’s extensive global reach and its existing investments in media, digital and live entertainment companies around the world offer an unparalleled opportunity for ATG to realise its international ambitions.
“We’re also pleased to be maintaining our close working relationship with Exponent with whom we’ve enjoyed some real success over the past four years.”
Andrew Tisdale, managing director of Providence, added: “We have been very impressed by the management of ATG who have built a terrific company over more than 20 years. We believe strongly in the long term value of live entertainment. ATG is well-known for the high quality of its theatrical and musical content and venues and we look forward to working closely with Howard, Rosemary, their senior management team and Exponent in continuing to grow ATG.”
Exponent, the private equity firm that is the majority shareholder in ATG, acquired its stake in the group when it helped finance the company’s £90 million purchase of Live Nation’s UK theatres in 2009 – a deal that led to ATG becoming the biggest player in the UK theatre market. At the time of the purchase, the group was valued at around £130 million.
Since then, ATG has focussed on international expansion and earlier this year made its first inroads into the US market, with the purchase of the 2,000-seat Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway in a deal that was thought to be worth between $60 million and $70 million. At the time, Panter said that the deal was a “springboard” to further expansion in North America.
The move followed the appointment at the end of 2012 of Tim McFarlane as chief executive of ATG Asia Pacific, with a brief to oversee expansion from a new base in Sydney.
ATG was founded by husband and wife team Panter and Squire in 1992. The pair have been listed top of The Stage 100 list of most influential people in the theatre industry for the last four years. The group owns London theatres including the Lyceum, home of Lion King, and the Apollo Victoria, which hosts Wicked. It also operates venues outside London including the Manchester Opera House and the Edinburgh Playhouse.