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The BBC's Nick Higham
"It's the second big theatre deal in the last year"
 real 28k

Lord Lloyd Webber speaks to the BBC's David Frost
"The thing about theatre is you have to take risks"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 16:29 GMT
Lloyd Webber buys London theatres

Lord Lloyd Webber Lord Lloyd Webber outside the London Palladium

Lord Lloyd Webber, who made his name with a string of hit West End musicals, is taking control of 10 of London's best known theatres in an 85m deal.

The composer has teamed up with a City finance company to buy the Stoll Moss group, which owns 10 theatres in the capital including the London Palladium, the Garrick, and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

I think a lot of people have been worried the group would fall into the hands of people who are money men
Lord Lloyd Webber
The former Andrew Lloyd Webber, who made his fortune writing musicals such as Cats, Starlight Express, and Whistle Down the Wind, said he took the action to keep moneymen out of theatreland.

He revealed details of the deal on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme.

Lord Lloyd Webber has been locked in a bidding battle with US entrepreneur Max Weitzenhoffer for control of the Stoll Moss empire, which was put up for sale last year by Australian businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court.

He said the deal, done in partnership with NatWest Equity Partners, was partly to safeguard London's theatrical tradition.

'Daft ideas'

"I think a lot of people have been worried the group would fall into the hands of people who are money men and who wouldn't necessarily understand the thing about theatre is you've got to take risks," he said.

Webber and Rice Lord Lloyd Webber with lyricist Tim Rice at the Oscars
Lord Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group will put its three theatres, the Adelphi, the Palace and the New London, into the new business, which has yet to be named.

He said: "The way to make theatre work is not to run it as a business in a way.

"I've always been eternally grateful to Bernard Delfonte because he got Cats into the New London (theatre) when everyone thought it was a no-go zone.

Internet revolution

"It's these kind of daft ideas, Les Miserables for example where practically everyone is dead at the end, which are not commercially on paper the best idea for a musical."

He said the revolution in the way theatre tickets are booked by the public, such as through the internet, would increase the risk of business control over theatre.

Lord Lloyd Webber said he believed the new business would be profitable as the additional theatres would bring economies of scale but he said he would not be putting all his own musicals into the new acquisitions.

"I've had very little really to do with the deal but my people have been through it very carefully and I think it will work," he said.

Lord Lloyd Webber, who is reputedly worth 350m and is reportedly Britain's 54th richest man, is currently working on a project written with Ben Elton called The Beautiful Game.

The musical follows the lives of a group of kids in Northern Ireland who are in a football team in the 1960s and looks at how "The Troubles" affected them.

It is due to go into rehearsal in July.

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See also:
02 Aug 99 |  Entertainment
Top London theatres for sale
08 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Joseph hits the small screen
02 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
Lloyd Webber's big screen plans
19 Apr 99 |  Entertainment
Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful deal
16 Dec 98 |  Entertainment
Lloyd Webber wins Phantom battle

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