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Presenter SFX is on Pace for Livent

Bankrupt co. to be bought for $100 mil

NEW YORK — Pace Theatricals’ parent company SFX Entertainment is close to a deal to acquire most of the assets of bankrupt theater concern Livent for a little more than $100 million.

If the deal is consummated, Pace would become a major player in Broadway theater with venues in New York, Toronto and Chicago as well as ownership of Livent’s shows “Ragtime” and “Fosse.” Livent’s theater in Vancouver would not be included in the acquisition, sources said.

SFX is the leading presenter of both concerts and live theatrical entertainment in the U.S., owning 82 venues including 16 amphitheaters. These venues include theaters owned by Pace, which also presents touring productions including Livent’s “Ragtime.” Pace is negotiating to handle the “Fosse” tour.

Livent, which filed for bankruptcy in November, is believed to be trying to wrap up a deal by Friday. People close to the situation said Wednesday the deal with Pace was being negotiated, but there were outstanding points and the pact could still fall apart.

If successful, SFX’s bid will have edged out rival offers from Cablevision Systems’ Radio City Entertainment and Peter Holmes a Court’s Back Row Prods. (Holmes a Court’s family owns U.K. theater powerhouse Stoll Moss).

Cablevision’s bid is believed to have been a lowball offer and the cabler is thought to have lost interest in the deal some time ago. Back Row Prods., industry execs said, was primarily interested in acquiring the rights to new productions at Livent, which has had tuners “The Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Seussical” (a version of the popular Dr. Seuss books) and “Pal Joey” in development for the past year.

At a price of about $100 million, Livent will cover only about half the money it owes. Unsecured creditors and stockholders, who include AMG founder Michael Ovitz, will have their investment completely wiped out.

Broadway producers were cautiously optimistic about the impact of the deal on the Great White Way. One expressed ambivalence, saying: “I think it gives them (Pace) an enormous amount of power; it’s pretty scary in terms of antitrust, (but) there was no else who was ‘from the business,’ so overall I think it’s good.”