Ambassador Theatre Group

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The Ambassador Theatre Group Limited
Type Limited company
Industry Entertainment
Founder(s)
Headquarters Woking, Surrey, United Kingdom
Number of locations 39 theatres and 1 cinema in 36 locations
Key people
  • Howard Panter (Joint Chief Executive & Creative Director)
  • Rosemary Squire (Joint Chief Executive)
  • Greg Dyke (Executive Chairman)
  • Helen Enright (Chief Financial Officer & Commercial Director)
  • Michael Lynas (Managing Director - Content)[1]
Owner(s)
Employees 3,500 (June 2013)[5]
Website atgtickets.com
References: [3]

The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) is a major international theatre organisation headquartered in the United Kingdom. ATG's key operations comprise three inter-related activities: theatre ownership and management; theatre producing activity; and ticketing and marketing operations.[6]

ATG is the largest theatre ownership / management group in the UK by number of seats.[7] It is one of the leading UK ticket retailers, and claims to be the largest in theatre ticketing.[8] As a theatrical producer, ATG's market share of UK theatrical production was estimated in 2010 as less than 10 per cent by the Office of Fair Trading.[3]

The company was founded and is run by the husband-and-wife team of Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, who in 2013 were judged (joint) top of the list of the 100 most influential people working in the UK theatre industry (after three years at the top on their own account) by The Stage newspaper.[9]

Business model[edit]

ATG's business model involves the combination of theatre ownership with production management, marketing and ticket operations.[10] ATG manage (and in some cases own) venues, mainly theatres, which host shows for paying audiences, including but not exclusively limited to shows created by its production functions; ATG's production functions create shows, which are hired out for performance at theatres including but not exclusively limited to theatres managed by ATG; and ATG's ticketing and marketing function sells and charges fees for selling tickets, for venues, including but not exclusively limited to venues owned by ATG.

Theatre ownership and management[edit]

ATG manage 38 theatres and one cinema in the United Kingdom (see list below), and one on Broadway. 12 of the UK theatres are in London's West End, three in Scotland and the rest in England's regions. The aggregated seated capacity of these theatres is over 48,000, making ATG the largest theatre group in the UK by number of seats.[7] In May 2013 ATG took ownership of its first non-UK venue, the Lyric Theatre, one of the largest Broadway theatres in New York City.[11][12]

Theatre producing activity[edit]

ATG produces shows on its own behalf, with external producers and with producers with which it has contractual arrangements. Sonia Friedman Productions, formed in 2002, and now a leading mainstream production company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of ATG.[13][14] First Family Entertainment, formed in 2005, a leading pantomime production company, is now solely owned by ATG.[14]

In 2011 Theatre Royal Brighton Productions was launched by ATG, its artistic director is Christopher Luscombe.[15] The company's first production was Dandy Dick, followed by Joe Penhall's play Blue/Orange.[16] In 2011 ATG also announced a partnership with director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell to form Jerry Mitchell Productions, which will develop, create and produce new productions for ATG theatres and other venues worldwide.[17]

In 2012 ATG announced further production deals, with producer Tali Pelman;[18] and with director Jamie Lloyd (to form Jamie Lloyd Productions), which would focus on "new writing, modern classics and musicals".[19]

Current and recent ATG co-productions[edit]

Current and recent ATG co-productions include: Jumpy by April De Angelis, Posh and Constellations (Royal Court at the Duke of York's); The Mystery of Charles Dickens starring Simon Callow (London); Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 The Musical (Manchester, UK Tour and London); Legally Blonde The Musical (London and UK Tour); All New People starring Zach Braff (premiered in Manchester prior to London); the Lincoln Center's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific in London and on tour in the UK; Ghost the Musical in Manchester and London and on Broadway in 2012; Matthew Bourne's The Nutcracker! at Sadler's Wells and on tour in the UK; the UK tour and London production of Monty Python's Spamalot by Eric Idle; Being Shakespeare starring Simon Callow; The Misanthrope starring Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley; the critically acclaimed musical West Side Story at Sadler's Wells and on tour in the UK; Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard; Neil LaBute's comedy Fat Pig; Harold Pinter’s The Lover and The Collection; Elling starring John Simm; Porgy and Bess directed by Trevor Nunn; Guys and Dolls starring Ewan McGregor; and The Rocky Horror Show worldwide.

Older productions[edit]

ATG's earlier productions include the co-production of The Weir in London and on Broadway (winner of the 1999 Olivier Award for Best New Play); Smokey Joe's Cafe in the West End; the Olivier award-winning Slava's Snowshow in the West End and North America; and the multi award-winning West End musical Carmen Jones.

Broadway productions[edit]

ATG's Broadway productions include: Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd; the Tony Award-winning Company; The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett; and Exit the King starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon.

Productions in Australia[edit]

ATG's productions in Australia include: Legally Blonde The Musical; The Rocky Horror Show; Guys and Dolls; and West Side Story.

Ticketing and marketing operations[edit]

ATG runs atgtickets.com, which provides ticketing services for all the UK theatres that it manages, as well as managing the ticketing, e-commerce and other related needs for producers, venues, artists and events across the UK.[20] ATG is a leading UK event ticketing organisation, claiming to be the joint-largest ticketing company in the UK and the largest in theatre ticketing.[8] (It is unstated whether these claims are by value of tickets sold, number of tickets sold, or some other measure.)

ATG uses the AudienceView product.[21]

ATG has received criticism for its ticketing charges. Comedian Jason Manford described ATG as "parasites of the highest order" and vowed not to perform in ATG theatres once his current tour had ended.[22]

History[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

Squire and Panter had known each other since 1979, and Panter offered Squire a job after she was made redundant in 1986.[23] The company now known as ATG began through Panter meeting property developer brothers Peter and John Beckwith. The Beckwiths' company, London and Edinburgh Trust, was working on a development in Woking, Surrey, that was to include an arts and entertainment complex, and the Beckwiths asked Panter and Squire to plan and manage it.[23] When London and Edinburgh Trust was sold before the Woking development was completed in 1992, a structure was set up that allowed Panter and Squire to continue to run the theatre. Around that time the ATG company was established, with founding investors including Eddie Kulukundis.[23] According to Squire, the way the company collaborated with the local council on the Woking development became a blueprint for their future projects.[23]

In February 1992 ATG bought the Duke of York's Theatre from Capital Radio, with significant support from Kulukundis.[23] In 1995, ATG bought its second London theatre, the Ambassadors.[23] The company also bid successfully for contracts to manage new theatres being launched in Milton Keynes and Stoke-on-Trent.[23]

ACT deal[edit]

ATG underwent major expansion in 2000 through the acquisition of seven West End theatres from Associated Capital Theatres (ACT): the Albery (now named the Noël Coward), the Comedy (now named the Harold Pinter), Donmar Warehouse, Phoenix, Piccadilly, Whitehall (now Trafalgar Studios) and Wyndham's theatres.[23] Expansion required the involvement of larger corporate investors including AREA Property Partners[7] and Carlton Television.[23]

Subsequent deals included taking on the running of theatres in Bromley, Richmond and Glasgow.[23]

Live Nation deal[edit]

In November 2009, ATG consolidated its position as the major UK theatre owner by purchasing the Live Nation UK theatre portfolio of 16 venues in England and Scotland in a £90 million acquisition.[14] Live Nation sold the theatres as part of a business decision of "selling off assets that are not core to our live music strategy".[24] At that time Exponent Private Equity became the new majority owner of ATG by financing the theatre takeover.[25] Exponent provided at least £75m of financing for the deal, which valued ATG at £150m.[25] Coinciding with the expansion, former BBC director general Greg Dyke joined ATG in a new role of executive chairman.[14]

Potential competition concerns led to an investigation by the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Its conclusion was that "the OFT does not believe that it is or may be the case that the merger has resulted or may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom" and "[t]his merger will therefore not be referred to the Competition Commission".[3]

Expansion outside the UK[edit]

In 2012, ATG indicated an intention to expand into international theatre ownership, possibly in Australia and China.[26] This included the appointment of a CEO for ATG Asia/Pacific.[6][27] In November 2012 it was announced ATG would be establishing a regional headquarters in Sydney.[10]

ATG's acquisition of Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre in May 2013 heralded the group's US debut, with Panter commenting, "Ownership of The Foxwoods Theatre within the group will provide a catalyst to expand in the North American market."[12] Later in 2013, buyout firm Providence Equity Partners purchased a majority share in ATG from Exponent.[2]

Culture[edit]

Panter has on several occasions described ATG as a company "of national stature but with local sensitivity".[26][28]

ATG has demonstrated a commitment to the (often historic) buildings that it manages. In 2009, the Theatres Trust, the National Advisory Public Body for theatres in the UK, stated that it "works regularly with ATG, advising them on their plans for maintenance and care of their theatres. As well as having a good record of looking after its theatres, the company has also been a leader in promoting environmental best practice and reducing their theatres' carbon emissions."[29] ATG also uses a "restoration levy" on tickets to raise funds to upgrade the theatres that they manage.[30]

ATG have won awards for staff training including the 2005 Excellence in Workforce Development Award from the Learning and Skills Council.[31]

The company has displayed commitment to innovation, with examples including the pioneering of ergonomically improved seats,[32] adapted theatre performances for children with autism disorders,[33][34] and the 'ATG Theatre Card' loyalty program.[35]

Ownership[edit]

ATG is controlled by Providence Equity Partners. Exponent Private Equity has a minority stake.[2] Peter Beckwith, through his company PMB Holdings, is a "major shareholder".[4] Theatre impresario and shipping broker Eddie Kulukundis is a shareholder.[36] Panter and Squire own 8% of ATG, with an option on a further 5%, according to reports in 2003.[36]

List of venues managed by ATG[edit]

Theatres[edit]

Start year indicates the year of ATG's first involvement, End year indicates the last year of ATG involvement (where applicable).

In terms of ownership, it is often unclear whether ATG own the freehold to a theatre or a leasehold: reports use terms such as buy, purchase and own, but rarely specify whether they are referring to the freehold or to a leasehold.

ATG Theatres
Venue Location Start year End year ATG role Seated capacity Notes
Duke of York's Theatre London 1992 ATG manage and own the theatre.[37] 628[38] [23][39]
Ambassadors Theatre London 1995 2007 Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen acquired the Ambassadors from ATG in 2007.[7][40]
New Victoria Theatre, Woking Woking 1995 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre.[7] 1,304[41] Panter and Squire were involved with the theatre from 1992, but ATG did not purchase it until 1995.[7]
Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking Woking 1995 ATG manage the theatre jointly with Woking Borough Council as a community performance space.[42][43] 228[42] Panter and Squire were involved with the theatre from 1992, but ATG did not purchase it until 1995.[7]
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent 1997 ATG manage the theatre under a 10-year contract (from the end of 2012) from Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The council paid ATG annual subsidy for this venue and the Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent of £626,000 in 2012/13.[44][45] 1,400[46] The theatre opened in 1999 (following its earlier life mostly as a cinema) but ATG's management contract was agreed in 1997.[47]
Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent 1997 ATG manage the theatre under a 10-year contract (from the end of 2012) from Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The council paid ATG annual subsidy for this venue and the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent of £626,000 in 2012/13.[44][45] 1,400[46] The theatre (re)opened in 1998 but ATG's management contract was agreed in 1997.[44][47]
Milton Keynes Theatre Milton Keynes 1998 ATG manage the theatre (through a wholly owned subsidiary, Milton Keynes Theatre Ltd.) for the Milton Keynes Theatre & Gallery Company (a charitable body).[48][49] 1,400[50] ATG were appointed as theatre operator in 1998, the venue opened in 1999.[51]
Theatre Royal, Brighton Brighton 1999 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre.[52] 966[53] [52]
Churchill Theatre, Bromley Bromley 2000 ATG manage the theatre under a 5-year contract (from April 2011) from Bromley Council, following their original 10-year contract from January 2000.[54][55] 781[56] [57]
Richmond Theatre Richmond, London 2000 ATG manage the theatre via Richmond Theatre Management Ltd., a wholly owned trading subsidiary of the Richmond Theatre Trust Ltd., which is a charitable body with trustees appointed by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and by ATG.[58] 840[59] [60]
Donmar Warehouse London 2000 ATG own the theatre. It is managed by Donmar Warehouse Projects Ltd. (DWPL), a registered charity.[61][62] The theatre building will go into the ownership of DWPL in 2016.[63] 250[64] Part of the ACT Theatres deal.[23]
Harold Pinter Theatre London 2000 ATG manage and own the theatre.[37] 797[65] Part of the ACT Theatres deal.[23]
Noël Coward Theatre London 2000 2005 Part of the ACT Theatres deal. In 2005 the lease on the theatre reverted from ATG to the Salisbury Estate who granted a new lease to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.[23][66]
Phoenix Theatre London 2000 ATG manage and own the theatre.[37] 1,012[67] Part of the ACT Theatres deal.[23]
Piccadilly Theatre London 2000 ATG manage and own the theatre.[37] 1,184[68] Part of the ACT Theatres deal.[23]
Trafalgar Studios Studio 1 London 2000 ATG manage and lease the theatre.[37] 392[69] Part of the ACT Theatres deal.[23] Originally named the Whitehall Theatre, ATG renamed the venue in 2004.[70]
Wyndham's Theatre London 2000 2005 Part of the ACT Theatres deal. The lease reverted to Cameron Mackintosh in 2005.[23][71]
Fortune Theatre London 2001 ATG manage and own (or lease) the theatre.[37][72] 432[73] [37][74]
King's Theatre, Glasgow Glasgow 2002 ATG manage the theatre and lease it, via subsidiary Glasgow Theatres Ltd., from Glasgow City Council on a 21-year lease from 2002.[75][76] 1,785[77]
New Wimbledon Theatre Wimbledon, London 2003 ATG manage the theatre for the London Borough of Merton and charitable trust Wimbledon Civic Theatre Trust, and lease it from them under a 30-year lease from 2003.[78][79] 1,670[80]
New Wimbledon Studio Wimbledon, London 2003 ATG manage the theatre for the London Borough of Merton and charitable trust Wimbledon Civic Theatre Trust, and lease it from them under a 30-year lease from 2003.[78][79] 80[81]
Playhouse Theatre London 2003 ATG manage and own the theatre[82] 822[83]
Savoy Theatre London 2005 ATG manage and own the theatre[71][84] 1,158[85]
Trafalgar Studios Studio 2 London 2005 ATG manage and lease the theatre.[37] 98[69] Opened after remodelling of the former Whitehall Theatre during 2004-5.[86]
Theatre Royal, Glasgow Glasgow 2006 ATG manage the venue for owners Scottish Opera.[87] 1,547[88]
Apollo Victoria Theatre London 2009 ATG manage and own (or lease) the theatre.[72] 2,500[89][90] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Bristol Hippodrome Bristol 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre. 1,951[91] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Edinburgh Playhouse Edinburgh 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre. 3,056[92] Part of the LiveNation deal.[7][14]
York Grand Opera House York 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre. 1,032[93] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Grimsby Auditorium Grimsby 2009 ATG manage the theatre on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council.[94] 1,200[95] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14][96]
Leas Cliff Hall Folkestone 2009 ATG manage the theatre for Shepway District Council under a 20-year contract ending in 2023 with a value of £10m.[97] 872[98] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Liverpool Empire Theatre Liverpool 2009 ATG manage the theatre on behalf of The Empire Theatre (Merseyside) Trust Ltd., a trust set up by Merseyside County Council in 1979 when MCC rescued the theatre, then scheduled for closure by Moss Empires.[99][100] 2,348[101] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Lyceum Theatre, London London 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre.[72] 2,100[102] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Manchester Opera House Manchester 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre.[103] 1,915[104] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham Birmingham 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre. 1,347[105] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14][28]
New Theatre Oxford Oxford 2009 ATG manage the theatre which they lease from Oxford City Council.[30] 1,785[106] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Old Fire Station Oxford 2009 2010 Part of the LiveNation deal. ATG surrendered the lease to Crisis, the charity for homeless people, in 2010.[7][14][107]
Manchester Palace Theatre Manchester 2009 ATG manage and own or lease the theatre.[103] 1,955[108] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Princess Theatre, Torquay Torquay 2009 ATG manage the theatre which they lease from Torbay Council.[109] 1,500[110] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Southport Theatre Southport 2009 ATG manage the theatre and lease it from Sefton Council Council under a 15-year contract which expired in June 2012 with tenders invited for the subsequent period. No information about the tender outcome appears to have been published. In the year prior to 2011, Sefton Council paid ATG £314,000.[111][112] 1,630[111] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Sunderland Empire Sunderland 2009 ATG manage the theatre on behalf of Sunderland City Council and the Sunderland Empire Theatre Trust (whose trustees are appointed by the Council).[113][114] 1,868[115] Part of the LiveNation deal.[14]
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Aylesbury 2009 ATG manage the theatre under a 15-year contract (from 2010 to 2025) with Aylesbury Vale District Council, with the council paying ATG approx £1.75m for the 2010-2015 period.[116] 1,198[117] [118]
Lyric Theatre New York City 2013 ATG operate the theatre, which is leased from The New 42nd Street, through its subsidiary Lyric Theatre LLC.[119][120] 1,932[121]

Cinema[edit]

ATG also operate the six-screen Ambassadors Cinema, Woking, in the same complex that contains the New Victoria and Rhoda McGaw theatres.[8]

References[edit]

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