Pace Entertainment on prowl for partner

NEW YORK — Pace Entertainment Corp., a major North American producer of live entertainment, has hired Wall Street firm Wasserstein Perella to find it either a financial partner or a buyer.

Pace’s founder and controlling shareholder, Alan Becker, is nearing retirement and is hoping to sell at least part of his stake, Wall Streeters say.

At the same time Pace is looking to raise money to finance expansion opportunities. Wasserstein is hoping to find an investor willing to contribute about $50 million, sources say, if not a buyer willing to take the whole company.

Becker’s son Brian, who is CEO of Pace, confirmed Wasserstein’s engagement to “seek financing options,” although he said there was no pre-set amount of money being sought. Becker said the “primary focus of this is to raise capital” rather than to find a buyer for the whole company, but he admitted, “We will consider all options.”

Known on Broadway as the parent of Pace Theatrical Group, which recently entered into a partnership with Jujamcyn Theaters to develop legit productions for Broadway and the road, Pace owns 14 amphitheaters around the country and runs divisions that present motor sports and rock concerts as well as legit theater. Wall Streeters estimate the company is worth close to $200 million.

Becker said Pace wanted to raise money to take advantage of growth opportunities in its core businesses. He wouldn’t identify the opportunities but said they included some specific transactions.

Pace had been planning to go public earlier this year but put that idea on the back-burner recently after the IPO market for live theater companies turned down. Becker said other financial alternatives would be considered before an IPO but he didn’t rule out an offering.

It’s not clear how a sale would affect Pace Theatrical Group’s recent partnership with Jujamcyn. As part of that partnership the two companies are creating a $25 million investment pool to finance development of new productions, but Becker said the capital-raising was unrelated to Pace’s half of the investment pool.

Pace Theatrical’s specialty is in touring productions, although it lately has been venturing into production and is responsible for “Jekyll and Hyde,” for instance.

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