Stagebill spree

Publisher bags Avenue, Performing Arts mags

Stagebill, America’s largest custom publisher for performing arts venues, has acquired Performing Arts Magazine and Avenue Magazine.

The two-pronged acquisition comes as Stagebill has concluded a new round of financing. And it’s likely to be a prologue to further acquisitions in months to come as Stagebill, whose circulation now stands at more than 1.2 million, continues to expand its reach in the custom publishing and luxury media markets.

Performing Arts is California’s leading publisher of programs for the performing arts. Founded in 1965 by Gilman Kraft, at the time the owner of Playbill, it’s average monthly circulation is now 600,000.

Together, Stagebill and Performing Arts will serve more than 120 venues in 22 cities, including the Hollywood Bowl and the Geffen Playhouse in L.A., and Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Public Theater in Gotham, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

Avenue, which chronicles Gotham society, fashion and luxury lifestyles, is a controlled circulation mag distributed to 80,000 upscale customers. Avenue also publishes special editions in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Monte Carlo.

The deals were inked a little over a year after former Daily Variety publisher Gerry Byrne became a partner and CEO at Stagebill, with a mandate to grow the brand and expand into new markets.

“We’ve dramatically driven up the scale of the business,” Byrne told Daily Variety. The Performing Arts acquisition, he said, “clearly places Stagebill as the leading custom publisher for the performing arts.”

Avenue, Byrne added, “is a fabulous brand, targeting a highly sought after community of affluence. We intend to build on the Avenue brand, to expand its range of products, while creating sales and sponsorship combinations that instantly enhance our reach and strength.”

The combination of businesses is expected to create a wealth of targeted marketing programs and crossover sales opportunities for Stagebill.

As Stagebill publisher Wayne Roche put it, “These acquisitions will greatly increase the circulation and coverage of upscale consumers that we can offer to marketers of luxury goods and services with the publications sold as a seamless package.”

Stagebill is privately controlled by a group of financing partners, including Ken Lipper, Frank Biondi, Mort Zuckerman and Byrne.

In the fall of 2001, Stagebill will launch two new initiatives: Stagebill Family and, created in partnership with Hollywood Media’s, a company partially owned by Viacom.

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