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Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK


Top London theatres for sale

The sale includes many famous theatres

Many of London's best-known theatres are set to change hands as the company that owns them has been put up for sale by its Australian owners.

The Palladium and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane are just two of the famous venues that will come under new management with the sale of Stoll Moss Theatres by the Australian Heytesbury Group.

Heytesbury Group chairman is Janet Holmes a Court, widow of the Australian tycoon Robert Holmes a Court, who died in 1990.

She is thought to be selling Stoll Moss, Britain's largest theatre group and Heytesbury's only European asset, to concentrate on projects closer to home.

Mrs Holmes a Court said: "I have had a fantastic time running this company. And it's right for me now to focus my energies on my home base, which will always be Australia."

Other West End Stoll Moss theatres include the Cambridge, the Garrick, the Duchess, the Apollo and Lyric theatres, and Her Majesty's - long-time home of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

Their sale is expected to attract widespread interest from potential buyers around the world and could raise up to £99m.

Among those tipped to bid for ownership is SFX Entertainment, the largest owner of theatres and concert venues in the United States.

Another likely buyer is the impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, producer of such hit shows as Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera.

[ image: Andew Lloyd Webber's Cats: One of musicals that draws visitors from abroad]
Andew Lloyd Webber's Cats: One of musicals that draws visitors from abroad
He has been building up his investments in theatre property and recently bought the freeholds of London's Queen's and the Gielgud theatres.

There are around 40 theatres in London's West End, attracting thousands of foreign visitors to the capital each year.

They show a range of productions from musicals Les Miserables and Cats through to Noel Coward's classic Hay Fever and newer ventures like Conor McPherson's The Weir.

The sale of Stoll Moss means that most of London's theatreland will be under new management by the end of the year.

Crescent, the city's second largest theatre owner is also on the market.

Venues in London's West End are particularly sought after because of a lack of space in the area.

Some theatres have struggled in recent years under high production costs and losses made from unpopular show.

Nonetheless, last year London's theatreland still managed to make £250m in ticket sales alone.

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