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Ambassador Theatre Group to be sold to private equity firm Providence

ATG joint chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire at The Stage New Year Party.
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Ambassador Theatre Group is to be sold to private equity investor Providence Equity, The Stage can reveal.

The deal has yet to be confirmed, but The Stage understands it will go through later today (Monday October 21). Providence will take on a majority share in ATG, with ATG’s current principal investor Exponent retaining an 18% stake in the company. All management – including joint chief executives Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire – will retain their stakes.

A source close to the deal told The Stage that operations within the company would remain “completely unchanged”, but the deal would bring in “massive” investment into ATG. The cost of the deal has not been revealed, but ATG was thought to be valued at somewhere between £250 million and £350 million.

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 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.

Providence bills itself as “the world’s leading private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments”. Established in 1989, it currently has $29 billion of capital under management.

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