Former Variety publisher Gerry Byrne has been named president of Stagebill Enterprises, which publishes Stagebill, the performing arts magazine. Byrne is a minority shareholder in the company and assumed his duties as of April 24.
As Stagebill's new president and chief executive officer, Byrne is charged with leading an "aggressive growth plan" that will be financed with a group of prominent media and financial investors. This financial group is led by ING Furman Selz Investments.
Stagebill's primary investors now include WaterView Partners, L. P., an investment fund co-founded by Frank J. Biondi Jr. Biondi also has interests in the recently launched theatre website, hollywood.com; as well as Broadway Digital Entertainment, which is developing a major web presence and seeks to develop theatre properties for broadcast on a subscription basis.
According to a prepared statement, Stagebill will be acquiring "entertainment-related properties, expanding into new markets, and creating a performing arts Web portal to serve the diversified world of entertainment."
Byrne was group vice-president and publisher of Variety Inc., where he revitalized Variety over the last decade and launched the New York edition of Daily Variety as well as Variety.com. He recently left Variety to enter what that trade paper described as "retirement." Stagebill announced that it's former publisher, Fred B. Tarter, a television producer and co-chairman of Screenvision, a leading cinema advertising company, will continue as chairman.
Tarter, who has led Stagebill since acquiring it from Primedia in 1998, referenced his relationship with Byrne saying, “Together, we can take Stagebill to a new level, building on decades of brand presence and a solid publishing foundation.”
To build on its role as "publisher of program guides to some of the country’s most prestigious venues -- such as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, and Chicago’s Lyric Opera," Stagebill's strategy will now include "broadening its role as publisher and sponsor of events and series surrounding independent film, live music, cutting-edge theatre productions, recorded music, and pay television," the company said.
Stagebill also named additional investors: investment banker and film producer Ken Lipper; publisher and real estate developer Mortimer B. Zuckerman; and vice chairman CS First Boston Ken Miller.
Stagebill's six-member board of directors comprises president of ING Furman Selz Investments Brian Friedman; vice chairman CS First Boston Ken Miller; Pavia and Harcourt senior partner Jordan E. Ringel; Byrne and Tarter; as well as ING Barings vice chairman Roy L. Furman (familiar to entertainment readers as Lincoln Center's executive vice president and as a former Livent executive under Mike Ovitz).
In a company statement Furman said, "We are pleased to partner with Gerry [Byrne] and Fred Tarter with a view to building a significant media company over the next several years.”
Stagebill reports that funding from ING Furman Selz and other investors, will allow Byrne to pursue "the creation and development of Stagebill’s web site into a full service performing arts portal...[operating as]..."a backstage, interactive pass to the country’s best and most diverse entertainment, ranging from theatre to dance to film and across a broad array of fields."
Having published program guides for regional theaters, symphonies, ballet companies, and performing arts centers, Stagebill has been partnered with such groups as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse and Chicago’s Lyric Opera for 25 years.
Stagebill chairman Fred B. Tarter told PLaybill On-Line, "Any time we can attract someone of Gerry's calibre, it's good for everybody."
-- By Murdoch McBride