Deal makes company largest player in sector

LONDON — Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) confirmed that it had completed the purchase of Live Nation’s U.K. theaters at a cost of £90 million (or almost $150 million).

The deal makes ATG, now valued at £150 million ($245.8 million), the largest player in the sector, with around 38,000 seats in the regions and over 11,000 in the West End — more than any of its rivals — in nine theaters including the Donmar Warehouse.

A theater owning and producing company co-founded by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire in 1992, ATG now has a total of 39 venues in London and across the U.K. In addition, the company will also operate the newly built Aylesbury Waterside Theater, opening in 2010, bringing the total to 40.

In addition to 14 regional theaters spanning from Edinburgh to Torquay, the purchased Live Nation theaters consists of the 2,089-seat Lyceum (“The Lion King”) and the 2,292-seat Apollo (“Wicked”). The purchase does not include, however, the one-third share of the 2016-seat Dominion Theater, currently home to the long-running “We Will Rock You,” which has been bought by the Nederlander Group.

Howard Panter, ATG’s Joint CEO and Creative Director, said: “Live Nation Theatres is a very successful company, with first class staff and significant customer loyalty. It is also blessed with some of the world’s best producers and productions. Our aim is to help maintain the shows and theatres as vibrant successes. It will be a privilege to operate this additional group of historic venues.”

In London, ATG’s new production of Molière’s “The Misanthrope” starring Keira Knightley, opens in the West End in December 2009. Company’s co-productions on Broadway include actor/musician revivals of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and “Company” and “Exit the King.” Last season’s Rialto revival of “Guys and Dolls,” for which the org was lead producer, closed less than five months after it began perfs due to disappointing B.O.

ATG also has a wholly owned subsidiary company Sonia Friedman Productions (SFP), led by producer Sonia Friedman, whose Gotham output has included “Boeing-Boeing” and “The Norman Conquests.”

In addition, ATG have announced that former BBC Director General Greg Dyke will be joining the company in the new role of Executive Chairman.

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