Lloyd Webber dodges theater, catalog bids
LONDON — Speculation intensified Tuesday in London about the sale of four of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 11 West End theaters, as well as of the composer-impresario’s extensive back catalog, which includes “Evita” and “Cats.”But a rep for Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group in London told Daily Variety that Lloyd Webber won’t be considering any offers until after the early July arts fest he hosts annually at his Sydmonton country estate. The rep also said Lloyd Webber may decide not to accept any offers and continue to run the biz as currently constituted. The statement came as conjecture mounted in the British press that American mogul Max Weitzenhoffer was in line to purchase the Garrick, Duchess, Lyric and Apollo theaters for a price said to be in the region of £12 million ($21.7 million). Weitzenhoffer has owned London’s Vaudeville Theater since January 2001 and has co-produced such London and/or Broadway ventures as Lloyd Webber’s “Song and Dance”; “The Will Rogers Follies”; the Tony-nommed “Medea” and “Some Girl(s).” Palace guard Whatever happens with the playhouses, Lloyd Webber has long said he wanted to retain control of such musical theater venues as the Palace and the Palladium, larger auditoria that have traditionally been Really Useful’s cash cows. The British press fueled the rumor mill with reports that the BBC’s Michael Grade had entered the bidding for rights to the Lloyd Webber catalog, pegged in the Times of London at $524 million. Those four playhouses would form part of that deal, with backing in place to underwrite any outstanding debt. That prospect immediately prompted a piece in the Times warning against conflict of interest, since Grade would then be in control of a company earning revenue from sales of its music catalog to the BBC, of which Grade is chairman. Grade’s London office had no comment on the reports.