U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez has 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 had hoped that other companies with better offers might emerge. However, none of the bidders, including Cablevision and Back Row Productions, bested SFX's price.
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 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.
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 alone is reported to have cost Livent more than $30 million.