Following the sale earlier this month of the Apollo Leisure Group to the U.S. giant SFX Entertainment for £156m, The Stage newspaper this week reports that SFX is now considering buying a part of the Stoll Moss empire which was also put up for sale a fortnight ago. It is thought that a wholesale purchase of Stoll Moss -- which owns 10 West End theatres and, in its entirety, is valued at £100m -- would not be allowed by the Competition Commission (formerly the Monopolies & Mergers Commission) but that a carving up of the Group might be accepted.
Apollo founder and now head of SFX Europe, Paul Gregg, said that the U.S. company is still actively looking to make more acquisitions in Europe and that Stoll Moss is a distinct possibility. He said that the company is not discouraged by current Stoll Moss owner Janet Holmes à Court's reported intention to only sell the group as a whole.
Industry watchers were shocked by SFX's sudden acquisition of Apollo. With its sale and the forecasted sales of Stoll Moss and Crescent, which owns seven West End theatres and is also on the market, more than half of London's theatreland is on track to change ownership by the end of the year.
Stoll Moss is the largest theatre owner in the West End, counting among its portfolio some of the capital's most famous theatres including the Palladium, the Garrick, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the New London, where Cats has been playing for over 18 years. SFX is the largest operator of live entertainment venues in the world with 82 properties in the U.S. alone.
Janet Holmes à Court has become a leading figure in London and Britain's theatre industry, consistently being named amongst the top five most important players by The Stage newspaper. She recently won an award for Businesswoman of the Year for turning Stoll Moss around after inheriting the company on the death of her husband, the Australian tycoon Robert Holmes à Court. It is rumored that Ms Holmes à Court wants to sell up in order to concentrate on her interests in Australia, possibly even to launch a political career there. -- By Terri Paddock
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