Now The Times newspaper reports that the American producer Max Weitzenhoffer is poised to buy them. And there’s more.
Lloyd Webber has said he is open to bids for a business partner to take over the running of his Really Useful Group, including managing the rights to some of his musicals. The bidding process is being handled by Ingenious Media.
Lloyd Webber told The Times that, despite selling his playhouses, he still wants to keep close ties with his larger theatres. “I intend to maintain a significant, if not all my current stake in the music houses,” he said. Later, a spokesman told Variety that Lloyd Webber might still choose to keep his business in its current form.
The Times speculates on why Lloyd Webber seems to be moving away from the business. It cites “insiders” who say he wants to spend more time composing, but also point out that although his theatres made a profit of £6.4 million in 2003, the growing need to refurbish the venues makes them a burden he could do without.
The Times and The Guardian have also both reported that Michael Grade has put himself forward to take over RUG. Grade comes from distinguished theatrical stock — his father and uncles were famous impresarios and agents (his uncles were Lew Grade and Bernard Delfont). However, the Guardian worries that there may be looming monopoly issues with his current job as head of the BBC. Grade came under some fire when the broadcaster filmed Jerry Springer — The Opera. The show was co-produced by the National Theatre, where Grade is an NT non-executive director. Were any of the RUG shows to be broadcast by the BBC, Grade would be open to criticism. The press reports say that Grade has linked up with the theatrical agent Michael Linnit to work on his £290 million bid for RUG, which is underwritten by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays Bank. The Guardian says that “those backing the Grade bid are thought to include Grant Gazdig, a former colleague of City dealmaker Robin Saunders, plus a mystery wealthy individual.”
The future for Lloyd Webber’s business will be announced at the end of summer 2005. On the composing front, the British peer is most immediately concerned with the Broadway transfer of his latest show, The Woman In White.