The quartet on the block are The Apollo, The Garrick, The Duchess and The Lyric. Whereas fellow theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh owns his venues outright, Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group (RUG) acquired its properties as part of a joint venture and interest repayments are thought to be high.
A spokesman for RUG told the BBC, "Andrew Lloyd Webber has received an enquiry in relation to the acquisition of some parts of his businesses. As a result, Andrew Lloyd Webber has instructed Patrick McKenna and Ingenious Media to advise on all available options. The Really Useful Group and Really Useful Theatres continue to operate as normal."
It's not a cheap business being a West End theatre owner, aside from any interest payments Lloyd Webber's company may be paying and the normal struggle to make theatres profitable with durable shows. A recent, much-publicized report called for millions of pounds worth of investment in London's aging playhouses to bring them up to modern standards of comfort and safety and to ensure their future as working theatres. In November 2003, Lloyd Webber made a statement in the House of Lords complaining that there is "no level playing field" for commercial West End theatres competing with the publicly funded sector.
"The real concern within the West End," said Lloyd Webber at that time, "is not only the fabric of the theatre buildings but also the fact that we are not on a level playing field with the public sector." Mackintosh has invested his own money on a refurbishment scheme for his theatres, which has so far seen extensive renovations to the Prince of Wales and the Prince Edward.
Lloyd Webber has not said he will definitely sell, nor is it yet known who the mystery bidders are. Newspaper speculation has pointed to Clear Channel or the Ambassador Theatre Group, and the press has also suggested that if he unloads these four theatres, the rest may follow. The negotiations coincide with the most intense period of work as a composer that Lloyd Webber has undergone for some years. His newest show, The Woman In White, debuted in the West End, and is now being prepared for Broadway. In addition, the composer revisited his biggest commercial success, The Phantom of the Opera, for the Joel Schumacher-directed movie.