Although his Really Useful Theatres retains a bigger share of West End stages than their competitors, the (reportedly) £11.5 million deal is in line with Lloyd Webber’s often-stated wish to divest himself of distractions and concentrate more fully on composing.
The theatres on the block are the Duchess, the Lyric, the Apollo and the Garrick. Although higher offers were received, the composer has chosen to sell them to a new company – Nimax—formed by the British impresario Nica Burns and the American producer Max Weitzenhoffer. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported rumors that the highest offer was received from a property development company. It also quoted Lloyd Webber as saying, “I am thrilled to say that these theatres are not being sold to the highest bidder, but to theatre professionals who will continue to administer them in the way that is in the best interests of the theatres themselves and the West End in general.”
Weitzenhoffer is no stranger to being a London landlord; the 65 year-old already owns the Vaudeville. Burns is intimately familiar with her new acquisitions, having worked at the top level for Lloyd Webber’s company.
Lloyd Webber has already promised to invest £10 million from the sale into the refurbishment of his remaining venues. And theatre professionals are wondering, as a wide-ranging review of his company’s assets is undertaken, whether the sales will stop here. However, he has repeatedly emphasised his love for his musical theatre houses—which is being taken as a sign that, whether or not his Really Useful Group will hold any more auctions, it will firmly keep hold of the deeds to the London Palladium, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Palace.
Which means that he will still control several of the largest and most prestigious London theatres. Those he is selling are relatively small playhouses – the Duchess is the smallest with 475 seats, the largest is the Lyric with 932.