Ex-Variety publisher Byrne fills Stagebill

Named as prexy, partner and CEO

Two weeks after ankling his post as publisher of Daily Variety, Gerry Byrne has found a new home at the performing arts magazine Stagebill.

Byrne has been named partner, president and chief executive officer of the magazine and will lead an aggressive growth campaign that includes acquiring entertainment-related properties, expanding into new markets and creating a performing arts Web portal.

Fred Tartar, who has led Stagebill since he acquired it from Primedia in 1998 and has been publisher since 1999, will continue as chairman.

“This is a terrific situation,” Byrne told Daily Variety. “I had 11 fabulous years at Variety. Now here’s an opportunity to take a company from a brand name and really grow it. There are plenty of venues that have performances of all kinds and are in need of enhanced program support. There are all the right signals for this to be very successful.”

Tarter said: “I am delighted my long-term friendship with Gerry is now a promising partnership. Together, we can take Stagebill to a new level, building on decades of brand presence and a solid publishing foundation.”

Internet strategy

Among the major venues into which Stagebill is expected to immediately plunge is the Internet.

Byrne says key elements of Stagebill’s Internet plans, particularly a development partner, should fall into place in the coming weeks. He expects the Web site, to be named stagebill.com, to launch before year’s end.

Noting that both Variety and Stagebill have solid brands, Byrne says he will explore ways for the two companies to work together in the future.

Stagebill is the 75-year-old national performing arts magazine; its expansion is backed by a group of media and financial investors led by ING Furman Selz Investments. Core investors include WaterView Partners, the investment fund co-founded by ex-Viacom and Universal exec Frank Biondi Jr.

Heavy partners

For more than 25 years, Stagebill has been partners with such prestige arts centers as Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, the New Amsterdam Theater, the Roundabout Theater and Chicago’s Opera House.

Though competitor Playbill wrested the Metropolitan Opera account away from Stagebill last year (Daily Variety, March 9, 1999), Stagebill remains the country’s largest custom publisher for performance venues, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities. It publishes detailed performance programs for more than 80 venues in 12 major markets, with 50,000 programs daily for 28,000 annual performances.

Creative publisher

At Variety as group veep and publisher, Byrne spearheaded the resurgence of the paper over the past 11 years — overseeing the launches of the Gotham edition and Variety.com. He was also instrumental in franchising Variety’s brand name into conferences, such as the Variety/Schroder Big Picture event, and into other businesses such as book publishing and new media.

Byrne joined weekly Variety as executive publisher in 1989 from Norman Lear’s Act III Publishing, where he was senior veep of planning and international development.

Prior to that, Byrne was the start-up publisher of Crain Communication’s Electronic Media and Crain’s New York Business. He was also the international sales director and then the New York sales director of Advertising Age, another Crain property.

Byrne, who began his publishing career in 1969 at the New York Daily News, was awarded the Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award at ShowEast ’96 for his community involvement.

He served as a U.S. Marine Corps officer in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 and was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V.