Ambassador Theatre Group co-founders Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire are stepping down as joint chief executives to be replaced by a corporate business leader.
The pair have also announced they will buy Trafalgar Studios from ATG and run it independently as part of the move, which will see Panter and Squire continue to hold non-executive roles within the company they founded.
The ATG chief executive role will be taken over with immediate effect by former Sotheby’s Europe boss Mark Cornell.
Cornell has experience in running multinational organisations in other industries, having previously held the role of managing director of Sotheby’s Europe.
Before that, he spent 10 years in roles at LVMH, including chief executive and president of Moet Hennessy USA and chief executive of Krug Champagne.
Cornell described ATG as a “world-leading business with significant potential for further growth”.
He said he felt privileged to be developing the next chapter of ATG, adding: “Whilst staying true to its cultural heart, ATG will focus on delivering exceptional experiences for audiences in its leading venues around the world, through innovative and strategic partnerships with the industry’s greatest producers and creative talent.”
ATG’s board has also announced that Adam Kenwright will join as executive vice president, becoming second in command to Cornell. The Stage understands that Cornell will focus on the business side of the organisation, with Kenwright looking after the theatre aspect.
Kenwright joins ATG with immediate effect from marketing and communications provider AKA, which he founded and at which he held the position of director.
AKA co-founder Kate Turnbull, who was previously managing director of AKA UK, will take over as chief executive with immediate effect. Last year, AKA was bought by private equity firm Providence, which also owns ATG.
At ATG, Panter, who was creative director as well as joint chief executive, will continue as executive producer on some existing and future ATG projects. He will remain chairman and producer of The Rocky Horror Show worldwide, while Squire will take on the role of deputy chairman of the ATG Group and will continue as chairman of Sonia Friedman Productions.
Both will remain directors of ATG and will continue to be shareholders.
Panter and Squire are also acquiring West End venue Trafalgar Studios from ATG, for which they aim to create a “distinctive artistic direction”.
They will run the theatre independently under a new company – Howard Panter Productions – which has offices in New York, London and Woking.
Announcing their departure, Panter and Squire said: “We are proud of the many achievements, loyalty and superb work of all our colleagues at ATG. ATG is in great shape as a company and poised for additional exciting growth. It is a good time for us to start new creative roles. We have thought long and hard before taking this decision but feel it is a time in our lives for an exciting new challenge.”
ATG was founded by Panter and Squire in 1992, and currently operates 45 theatres (excluding Trafalgar Studios), including 10 in London and two on Broadway.
In 2015, ATG enjoyed its biggest year of global expansion to date, and saw the company acquire its first theatre in Australia – the Theatre Royal Sydney – as well as European entertainment producers BB Group and its second Broadway venue, the Hudson.
As part of its production arm, ATG owns Sonia Friedman Productions and First Family Entertainment.
Providence took on a majority take in ATG in 2013, as part of a deal reportedly valued at between £250 million and £350 million.
A statement from ATG said that, with support from Providence, it would continue to expand its global network of theatres and theatre-related services.
1991: Theatre producers Rosemary Squire and Howard Panter set up Blandhold Limited, overseeing the development and later running of a new arts complex in Woking – including the New Victoria Theatre.
1992: The pair buy the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End from Capital Radio, with the company’s name changed to match that of the venue.
1995: The company buys the Ambassadors Theatre, its second West End venue, and wins contracts to manage new theatres in Milton Keynes and Stoke-on-Trent. A year later the company is renamed for the final time to the Ambassador Theatre Group.
2000: ATG buys seven West End theatres from Associated Capital Theatres: the Albery (now the Noel Coward), the Comedy (now the Harold Pinter), Whitehall (now Trafalgar Studios), Donmar Warehouse, Phoenix, Piccadilly, and Wyndham’s.
2002: Sonia Friedman launches a production company as a subsidiary of ATG.
2009: ATG buys all 16 of Live Nation’s UK venues, cementing its position as Britain’s largest theatre operator. Exponent Private Equity finances the deal, and becomes the company’s majority stakeholder. ATG is valued at £150 million.
2010: After a review, the Office of Fair Trading concludes that the Live Nation deal does not create an unfair lack of competition in the theatre market.
2013: ATG buys the biggest theatre on Broadway, the Foxwoods. The company is bought by private equity firm Providence, a move that helps fund the organisation’s international spread. ATG is valued at around £350 million.
2015: The organisation embarks on an international spending spree, snapping up theatres in Sydney and North America – including a second theatre on Broadway, taking its total number of theatres worldwide to 46. It also becomes the majority shareholder of European theatre producer BB Group, and enters talks to take over Stage Entertainment – which is later bought out by private equity firm CVC. In December, ATG’s owner Providence takes a controlling stake in leading West End marketing agency AKA.
2016: Squire and Panter step down as joint chief executives of ATG. They are replaced by Mark Cornell – a business executive without a theatre background. Adam Kenwright, formerly of marketing agency AKA, becomes executive vice president.