A consortium led by former BBC and ITV chairman Michael Grade and theatrical agent Michael Linnit have agreed a deal with Lloyd Webber for the sale of the New London, Cambridge, Her Majesty's and Palace theatres in London. Final contracts are as yet unsigned but the deal was closed earlier this week for a figure believed to be in the region of £50 million. Lloyd Webber described the sale as a "totally gut wrenching decision". He will no doubt be hoping this difficult decision marks a new phase for his Really Useful Theatre Group. He will be left with the ownership of the London Palladium, whose current show Sister Act is ending it's planned run early on the 30th October to make way for The Wizard Of Oz in February 2011, and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Drury Lane's Oliver! will close on the 8th January to make way for Shrek The Musical in May of next year.
Lloyd Webber will also retain his half share in the Adelphi theatre, whose current show Love Never Dies, the long-awaited sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera is to close for four days in November for a "retool" as sales so far have been poor after being mauled by most critics. He said of the theatre sales, "following my illness last year I was advised to reduce the debt in the family company. It is particularly difficult for me as the New London was Cats' home for 21 years. For nearly 25 years Her Majesty's has been and still is the home of The Phantom Of The Opera. The Palace has huge personal associations"
Staff at the four venues were written to this week by Andre Ptaszynski, Really Useful Group's chief executive to advise them how the sale would affect their positions. It is hoped that they will all be able to continue working under the new owners although he conceded that "a relatively small number of employees are likely to be affected" within the retained part of the business.