The New York Times and Variety are both reporting that SFX Entertainment Inc. is the likely candidate to take over ailing Livent, the theatrical producer rocked in 1998 by financial mismanagement allegations, bankruptcy and firings, despite its embraced productions of Show Boat, Ragtime and Fosse in the 1990s.
An announcement is imminent, the papers reported.
A representative of SFX was not available to comment. A Livent staffer in the company's spartan Toronto home office told Playbill On-Line there was no internal buzz about who among several suitors would win the company. Cablevision Systems, Ogden Corp., Walt Disney and Back Row Productions (linked to London theatre landlord Stoll Moss) have been mentioned as interested parties over the past six months.
SFX, the concert venue and promoter run by executive chairman Robert F.X. Sillerman, is offering $100 million for Livent's assets, according to The Times and Variety, about half of what creditors are due. Livent has four North American theatres, three of them Ford Centers for the Performing Arts, two current Broadway shows (Ragtime, Fosse, which have tours expected in fall 1999) and a number of in-development projects, such as The Seussical, Pal Joey and The Sweet Smell of Success.
SFX is a promoter, producer and venue operator for live entertainment, running concert amphitheaters and booking rock and pop shows. 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. With Livent's venues, assets and aborning shows, Pace's Broadway and road muscle would expand considerably. Livent's Vancouver house would not be in the deal, sources told Variety.
In a way, SFX is already engaged to Livent: Pace is set to present the scaled-down, reconstituted national tour of Ragtime, which will use elements from the previous Chicago and touring Ragtime troupes, opening in August 1999. It was Pace that rescued a foundering Livent national tour of Ragtime, abandoned by the producer, in fall 1998. That tour closed in March 1999 in Boston.
Any sort of offer to save the company would have to be approved by the federal bankruptcy court.
It is estimated that Livent's creditors are owed about $200 million.
Conventional wisdom has all suitors primarily interested in Livent's real estate holdings, specifically its theatres in New York, Chicago and Toronto. Theatres which can house a large musical are scarce in New York, and the shortage of facilities makes the Ford Center for the Performing Arts on 42nd and 43rd Streets an especially attractive prospect. Experts estimate the Livent empire to be worth $60 to $80 million. The Ford Center alone is reported to have cost Livent more than $30 million.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson