London-based Ambassador Theatre Group has put some teeth into its plans to expand its North American operations by announcing that it has hired Stephen Lewin as Chief Executive Officer/North America and Kristin Caskey as Executive Vice President for Content and Creative/North America.
ATG has bought two Broadway theatres since 2015—the Lyric (home to Paramour) and the long-furloughed Hudson (planning to reopen this spring)—and has made no secret of its desire to acquire more in New York and elsewhere in North America.
The move comes just six months after the company ousted husband-and-wife founders Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, and just a few weeks after announcing layoffs in its London headquarters to free up resources for expansion.
At the time, incoming CEO Mark Cornell said, “We are simply looking to make ourselves more efficient, to generate some funds to invest in some really exciting areas of the business.”
With nearly 50 venues in Britain, the U.S. and Australia, ATG bills itself as the world’s largest theatre company. In addition to the two Broadway houses, ATG acquired the ACE Theatrical Group, a company which specializes in the design, development, construction, and operation of live performance venues, plus the King’s Theater in Brooklyn; the Saenger Theater and the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans, LA; and the Majestic Theater and the Charline McCombs Empire Theater in San Antonio, TX.
Lewin will have the overall responsibility for the merger of ATG and ACE, in addition to expanding the ATG platform in North America.
Lewin, whose background is primarily in the wine and spirits business, said, “I am enormously looking forward to learning the theater business; and can’t think of a better place to do so than ATG—with its breathtakingly beautiful portfolio of theaters – or a better person to learn beside than Kristin: she’s the complete theater professional. In recent years, ATG and ACE have achieved great things. I am certain, though, that we have the potential to achieve even more; and can’t wait to start capitalizing on that potential. I am certain, too, that one of the secrets to success, whether it’s in the wine and spirits or theater business, is good product and good people, and that’s one reason I am happy to be working with Kristin.”
Caskey, a producer on Broadway and in St. Louis, MO, added, “I’m excited by the prospect of working for ATG and by the things it can achieve artistically. It’s going to be great, working alongside somebody with Stephen’s entrepreneurial energy and branding, management and relationship skills. Stephen is a team player, with a long track record of building cohesive, effective teams. That’s important to me. I strongly believe that good theater is all about good teamwork. Fox Theatricals has been my life for more than 20 years. I have been incredibly happy there and am more than grateful for everything it has given me.”
Here are their official bios:
Lewin (CEO, North America) has spent his entire career, of over 30 years, in the wine and spirits business: a career that has taken him from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons; to Clicquot, Inc. where he was Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing; to Paramount Brands where he was President and Chief Operating Officer; to Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits where he was Chief Marketing Officer; to Independence Wine & Spirits where he was Vice President and General Manager; and to his own import, sales and distribution company. He is thus a newcomer to the world of theatre management. He is not, however, new to the world of business leadership or of sales, marketing and brand management: In the course of his seventeen years at Clicquot, Inc., he built Veuve Clicquot into the number one champagne brand in America; At Paramount, he led a staff of 50 managers and had command of a network of 180 commissioned sales agents; At Deutsch, he was head of marketing in a company that included the number one wine brand in America, [yellow tail]. Nor will this be his first merger. In 2004/5, he sat on the advisory board, responsible for merging Clicquot, Inc., with two other companies—Schieffelin & Co. and Millennium Import LLC—to create Moët Hennessy USA.
Caskey (EVP, Content & Creative, North America) has been in the theatre business all her working life, most of which she has spent with Fox Theatricals, a division of Fox Associates. She started producing for Fox more than 20 years ago, in 1996, and in 2010 became its President, with responsibility not only for producing but also for booking The Broadway Series at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, MO. Caskey was originally drawn to commercial producing as the perfect marriage between the business and creative sides of the industry. Since then, she has successfully produced more than 20 plays, musicals and tours in partnership with Mike Isaacson, current Artistic Director of The Municipal Theater Association of St. Louis (“The Muny”). Some of their award—winning credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie, Legally Blonde, Bring It On, The Humans, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Red. A multiple Tony Award winner, her most significant recent achievement was the groundbreaking Fun Home. Caskey is an active member of the Broadway community, where she serves on the Tony Management Committee and the Board of Governors and Executive Committee for The Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway theatre industry. She also serves on the Investment Committee for the Independent Presenters Network (IPN), a consortium of independent presenters from across the country. At ATG, she will continue her work as a producer with longtime partner Mike Isaacson, at the same time as having overall responsibility for programming.
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