Livent Lays Off Staffers in Anticipation of SFX Closing

News   Livent Lays Off Staffers in Anticipation of SFX Closing Those with knowledge of producer Livent told Playbill On-Line Aug. 19 that an unknown number of remaining staff members in Toronto and New York received their layoff notices this week, and that the terminations would be effective with the close of the sale of Livent to SFX Entertainment Inc.

Those with knowledge of producer Livent told Playbill On-Line Aug. 19 that an unknown number of remaining staff members in Toronto and New York received their layoff notices this week, and that the terminations would be effective with the close of the sale of Livent to SFX Entertainment Inc.

Spokespeople for Livent and SFX would not comment on the subject, but others said staffers would likely be out of jobs the week of Aug. 23, when the closing of the SFX deal to assume Livent's assets is expected.

Livent is in the final days of bankruptcy prior to the closing of the deal that has SFX taking over the beleaguered Toronto-based producer of Broadway hits Ragtime and Fosse.

The layoffs, at very least, impact the in-house Livent press office that handles Broadway's Ragtime and Fosse. The day-to-day operation of moneymakers Fosse and Ragtime on Broadway are not impacted.

Also safe this week are the Toronto workshop presentations of the new Livent musical, The Seussical, the culmination of a four-week rehearsal process by writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and director Frank Galati. Three private workshop presentations are being staged Aug. 19-21 in Toronto for a private industry crowd, including SFX and Pace Theatricals executives. SFX, which owns Pace, is expected to shepherd The Seussical after the deal to buy Livent is final. The family-friendly musical, if the collaborators and producers are happy, is expected for broadway in 2000-2001. SFX is expected to close on the Livent sale perhaps as early as Aug. 24 or 25, according to sources.

Calls to the Livent press office in Toronto, which handles The Phantom of the Opera, were not returned by press time.

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In July, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez approved the sale of Canadian theatrical producing company Livent to SFX Entertainment, Inc. The two companies jointly announced June 1 that they had "entered into a definitive purchase agreement" for SFX to acquire Livent's assets -- including its theatres and current and future shows -- in exchange for cash, deferred payment rights and warrants to purchase SFX common stock at premiums. SFX's bid totalled $115 million.

Livent, the producing company and theatre owner, filed for bankruptcy in 1998 after new management discovered what it called accounting irregularities and the financial hemorrhaging could not be stemmed.

SFX is the world's largest diversified promoter, producer and venue operator for live entertainment events.

As part of the agreement, SFX will acquire the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in New York, the Pantages Theatre in Toronto and the Ford Center for the Performing Arts-Oriental Theatre in Chicago. The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver and Livent's Toronto headquarters building are not part of the agreement, but SFX will enter into a lease of Livent's headquarters.

SFX will also gain control of Broadway's Ragtime and Fosse as well as Livent shows in development, including Sweet Smell of Success, The Seussical and other embryonic shows.

SFX is a promoter, producer and venue operator for live entertainment, running concert amphitheatres and booking rock and pop shows, but it also owns Pace Entertainment, one of the major producers of legit national tours operating in nearly 40 Pace subscription markets throughout the U.S.

In a way, SFX was already engaged to Livent: Pace is presenting the scaled-down, reconstituted national tour of Ragtime, which will use elements from the previous Chicago and touring Ragtime troupes. It began its tour in Houston July 31.

With Livent's venues, assets and aborning shows, Pace's Broadway and road muscle would expand considerably -- Livent product would likely go to Pace-controlled markets before they would show up elsewhere.

It is estimated that Livent's creditors are owed about $200 million.

Experts estimate the Livent empire to be worth $60 to $80 million. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts in New York City is reported to have cost Livent more than $30 million.

-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson