Oz outfit in restructuring

Jacobsen Entertainment revamps amid economic woes

This article was corrected on October 15, 2003.

SYDNEY — Thirteen months after listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in a bid to become Australia’s biggest live entertainment company, Jacobsen Entertainment has appointed administrators and suspended trading of its shares, after posting an A$8.5 million ($5.95 million) loss.

Jacobson Entertainment bled $4.75 million on a failed national tour of Cameron Mackintosh’s “The Witches of Eastwick” last year and $1.2 million on a Bruce Springsteen stadium tour. Business failed to improve despite the shuttering of its theatrical division, reined-in expenses and a $2 million injection from the Jacobsen family.

But executive director Michael Jacobsen told a creditors’ meeting in Sydney last week he was confident the company could trade out of its malaise.

“(Entering) voluntary administration gives JEL the opportunity to protect the value of the business and plan for the future of the company to attract working capital and co-productions,” he said.

The Jacobsen family has three weeks to devise a restructure package and to convince administrators KordaMentha of its future viability. Until then, Jacobsen cannot discuss upcoming tours or concerts. However, the company has a significant interest in “Fame,” now playing in South Africa, and “Shout!,” which enjoyed a bumper tour of Australian capital cities and could play elsewhere in the region.

Jacobsen, the son of company topper and showbiz vet Kevin Jacobsen, blamed the company’s woes on economic and political factors. Tickets for its Springsteen tour went on sale as Australia was preparing to join the war in Iraq, while the failure of “Witches” coincided with a slump in the legit sector. But “Witches” was the biggest flop of the slump, and Springsteen, whose tour was chronically blighted by sound problems, just doesn’t have huge appeal to Aussie auds.

Michael Jacobsen described the past year’s difficulties as “unprecedented” in the long history of the family company, adding, “There’s no shortage of good will, support and good vibes” from creditors and industryites.

But some of JEL’s competitors in the legit and music biz have winced at the publicity the company’s failure has attracted because of its need to report to the Australian Stock Exchange.

On that subject Michael Jacobsen is firm: “It’s always been our belief that there is room in this country for a publicly listed entertainment company, (and we’re) committed to that.”

JEL shares are suspended at 13¢, a fifth of their value a year ago.

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