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Leonard Blavatnik completes £45m purchase of Theatre Royal Haymarket

The Theatre Royal Haymarket. Theatre Royal Haymarket
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The West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket has been bought by billionaire businessman Leonard Blavatnik.

The theatre, one of London’s oldest, has been acquired by Access Entertainment, the TV, film and theatre investment division of Blavatnik’s Access Industries.

It has been bought from Louis I Michaels Ltd for an undisclosed sum, however The Stage understands this to be in the region of £45 million.

It dwarfs previous West End sales including the Victoria Palace, which Cameron Mackintosh bought for about £26 million in 2014, and the Palace Theatre, bought by Nimax Theatres for approximately £20 million in 2012.

Ukrainian-born Blavatnik, who ranks number three in the Sunday Times Rich List, is reportedly worth £15.3 billion and also owns Warner Music Group.

Through Access Entertainment, he emerged as a likely buyer for the theatre last month, and is thought to have seen off a number of rival bids from existing West End theatre operators.

Access Entertainment, which is headed up by former BBC TV chief Danny Cohen, said theatre was an “important acquisition” in its growing entertainment portfolio.

While the company has previously invested in theatre productions – including Groundhog Day and Hello, Dolly! in the US and School of Rock in New York and London – the Haymarket purchase marks its first move into theatre ownership.

Blavatnik said he was proud that his company was the Haymarket’s new owner, and would “continue its long tradition of excellence”.

Little is known about the type of entertainment Access intends to stage at the Haymarket. However, a statement committed to putting “high-quality performance” at the heart of the Haymarket’s operation, “encouraging both much-loved and emerging talent to express their creativity”.

Cohen said: “London’s West End is a world-leading powerhouse of artistic talent and through this acquisition we will contribute to its ongoing success. When it comes to great talent, the boundaries between film, television and theatre have never been more porous, so this acquisition creates great opportunities for Access Entertainment across the world.”

The Haymarket dates back to 1720 and has stood in its current location since 1861, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use. It was put on the market in January by Louis I Michaels Ltd, which held the 68-year lease for the theatre. The freehold is owned by the Crown Estate.

Notable productions in recent years have included One Man, Two Guvnors, Flare Path and Waiting for Godot. It is currently home to Tartuffe, and will play host to The Band later this year.

Leonard Blavatnik speaking at Cannes Film Festival last year. Photo: Shutterstock
Leonard Blavatnik speaking at Cannes Film Festival last year. Photo: Shutterstock

Who is Leonard Blavatnik?

  • The 61-year-old Ukrainian-born businessman and philanthropist grew up in Moscow and later emigrated to the US.
  • He is now primarily based in London and became a British citizen in 2010.
  • He founded industrial conglomerate Access Industries in 1986, of which he remains chairman and president.
  • He also owns entertainment company and record label Warner Music Group.
  • As of May 2018, he is the third richest man in the UK, with a fortune of £15.3 billion.
  • He was knighted in 2017 for his services to philanthropy, with recent donations including the Tate Modern’s new Blavatnik building – opened in 2017 – and the V&A’s recent redevelopment.
  • He gave $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural fund but has not donated directly to the Trump campaign.
  • He bought Damien Hirst’s giant gilded wooly mammoth skeleton for $15 million in 2014.

Editor’s View: Billionaire’s £45m Haymarket purchase pushes theatre into realm of modern art

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