Theatre titans stage blockbuster Barings deal

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The husband-and-wife theatre tycoons who ‎have run a swathe of London’s live entertainment scene for decades are lining up their next fortune by selling a chunk of their business empire.

Sky News has learnt that Sir ‎Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, the co-chief executives of Trafalgar Entertainment Group (TEG), are in advanced talks with the private equity division of Barings about a potential deal.

The negotiations are expected to see TEG, which owns the Trafalgar Studios theatre in the West End, raising tens of millions of pounds to fund its expansion as well as a windfall for the company’s shareholders.

A deal could be struck within weeks, according ‎to insiders, who said that Sir Howard and Ms Squire would remain at the helm of the business.

TEG‎ is chaired by Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general and a regular contributor to Sky News’ weekly debate programme, The Pledge.

The company’s external shareholder‎s include Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder.

Sir Howard and Dame Rosemary are two of the most influential figures in the British theatre industry, having built Ambassador Theatre Group – owner of historic London venues including the Apollo Victoria,‎ Duke of York’s and Savoy – over a quarter of a century.

They stepped down last year, after selling a controlling stake in the company to Providence Equity Partners in 2013 for £350m.

Mr Dyke has also served as chairman of ATG, which describes itself as the world’s leading live theatre operator.

Sir Howard and Ms Squire have set out ambitious plans for their latest venture, saying they want the Trafalgar Studios site to become “the home of live-streaming”.

“It makes theatre more accessible to many people, but what we’ve discovered is that it absolutely does not cannibalise the theatre audience; it adds to the theatre audience,” Sir Howard told The Stage last year.

Their company owns Trafalgar Releasing, which ‎distributes arts content from the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House to cinemas around the world.

They also hold a chunk of the global rights to The Rocky Horror Show.

The duo‎ are said to have identified a string of potential acquisition targets, and said in a newspaper interview last year that they want to invest in improving the theatre experience for audiences.

Their prospective deal with Barings, which is part of the US life insurance company MassMutual, comes at a time of impending change in London’s Theatreland.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of the capital’s leading venues, has been put up for sale, while Providence may seek some form of sale or exit in the next couple of years.

Stage Entertainment, which is backed by the buyout firm CVC Capital Partners, is also expected to change hands during a similar timeframe, although its venues are located elsewhere in Europe.

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TEG was unavailable for comment this weekend.

From – SkyNews

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