The Second City, a legendary theater that has nurtured generations of top comics, has sold to ZMC, a private equity firm run by Strauss Zelnick. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Variety first broke the news in October that the Second City was on the block.
Zelnick is the chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the video game giant behind “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption,” and is the former chairman of CBS Corporation. In Second City, ZMC gets an institution, one that provided an early lift to the careers of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert, among many others. Second City also teaches classes on improvisational comedy and has successfully built up a business of working with corporate clients that has helped it weather the downturn in live events during the pandemic. But it’s also a company that has faced criticism for its lack of diversity and allegations of institutional racism.
When news first broke that ZMC was finalizing a deal, reports hit that teachers at Second City were moving to unionize.
“We are very excited to partner with management and the incredible talent at The Second City to grow the brand and build a diverse organization that elevates all voices,” said Jordan Turkewitz, co-chief investment officer and managing partner at ZMC, in a statement. “Over its 60-year history, The Second City has been home to some of the most beloved names in comedy, and we plan on building the next generation of comedy talent by investing in people and creativity.”
Houlihan Lokey acted as financial advisor and Mayer Brown LLP acted as legal advisor to The Second City. Sidley Austin LLP acted as legal advisor to ZMC.