If you want to get a deal done on Broadway, call Lisbeth R. Barron.
Barron is a veteran investment banker who launched her own shingle, Barron Intl. Group, in 2015. She has brokered a slew of deals throughout her career — which has included stops at S.G. Warburg and Bear Stearns — involving companies and assets related to theatrical and live events.
Barron has become the specialist in a big-ticket dealmaking arena that is served by very few other bankers. She’s known for her creative approach to matching buyers and sellers, and for her ability to help her clients transform existing businesses over the long term. Outside the theatrical realm, Barron has represented such notables as Martha Stewart, Judith Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy), Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse in various capacities. In April, she spearheaded the sale of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to Marquee Brands for $215 million.
“Throughout my career, I have focused on intellectual property and unique brands — be it film, television, music, live events or consumer products — along with covering every possible avenue of monetization for those assets — development, production, distribution and licensing on a global basis,” Barron says. “Increasingly, the desire for immersive, experiential entertainment plays perfectly into what I have spent the past 30 years advising clients on.”
Barron has long been focused on the business of Broadway and related sectors, but she’s been able to thrive now that she’s her own boss in pursuing deals that might not capture much attention at a bigger bank. She’s married her love of theater with her skill at seeing complementary potential in disparate assets. She likens it to putting puzzle pieces together to discover the big picture.
“I have always prided myself on finding sectors and clients that were under-covered by the [largest] investment banks,” she says. “That’s still true today.”
Over the past two years, Barron has orchestrated acquisitions by Concord Music that vaulted the company into becoming a major player in the theatrical publishing and licensing business. In 2017, Concord acquired the Rodgers & Hammerstein theatrical archive through its purchase of music publisher Imagem Music Group.
Last December, Concord bought Main Stem institution Samuel French, a publisher and licenser of plays and musicals of such stalwarts as Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, August Wilson and Tennessee Williams. In February, Concord tuned up with the purchase of the Tams-Witmark Music Library, which yielded evergreen works from Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Cy Coleman and Jule Styne.
Barron also steered the innovative sale of Scott Sanders productions to shopping center titan Westfield Corp., which led to “The Color Purple” producer being appointed creative head of global entertainment for the company. Barron saw the potential for Westfield malls to draw bigger crowds by offering more expansive live entertainment options, particularly for families. Earlier this year, she arranged the sale of a majority stake in David Ian Productions to Raven Capital Management.
In the case of Tams-Witmark and Samuel French, the deals came as a surprise to the close-knit theater world because few other than Barron’s team knew that the companies were open to a transaction. But that’s where Barron and her strategic acumen came in.
“Tams-Witmark and Samuel French were not actionable when we approached them,” she says. “For more than 100 years, each had been family-owned, with no intention of seeking a sale. We were able to convince them to trust us to identify the ideal home for their legacy businesses.”
Those deals were not multibillion-dollar blockbusters, but they were a fit with the kind of work Barron enjoys most as a strategic thinker. Barron has handled all manner of transactions over the years — she orchestrated the $4.4 billion sale of Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment to Clear Channel in 2000 — but there’s a special satisfaction from some projects she takes on.
“I have always loved representing families and entrepreneurs. It’s clearly not as fulfilling to be the 10th banker representing a corporate media giant,” she says. “I would rather be involved in a deal in which I can help direct the future of a company — to be the consigliere to the founders of an organization by opening them up to new ways of doing business and to new targeted areas for growth.”
Barron sees the potential for the theatrical arena to blossom beyond the confines of Broadway through innovative licensing and touring opportunities. She’s worked with numerous clients over the years on sales and acquisitions of theater venues in the U.S. and abroad as well as related businesses such as ticketing, licensing and merchandising.
“Higher ticket prices and increased subscriptions are a direct result of the quality and depth of the content available, leading to more and more demand outside of New York to see shows,” she says. “Broadway, West End and the touring performing arts sector is a market that we always knew would come into its own one day.”
Barron’s desk at her Fifth Avenue office is piled high with stacks of paperwork related to deals and analysis she and her team of eight senior bankers are preparing for clients. She has next set her sights on an effort to find a more efficient way to connect producers of Broadway shows with financiers and investors. She won’t say much about her plans, but she can’t hide her excitement at the potential to bring some order to what remains a haphazard experience for most producers.
“It’s is a grueling process that goes on for months at a time. It’s not the most efficient way to raise financing for shows, but it’s always been done that way,” she says. “I believe there is room for that to change in the next couple of years. We’re working on a way of raising production capital in a more comprehensive way. If successful, it will take the burden away from producers to go around with their hands out.”