Private equity firm takes majority stake in Waterside Theatre managers

ATG run Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre
ATG run Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre

The Ambassador Theatre Group, which runs Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre, has unveiled global private equity firm Providence Equity Partners as its new major shareholder.

Providence, which manages funds with $37 billion in commitments, successfully reached agreement to purchase a majority share from current investors led by Exponent Private Equity, it has been announced this afternoon (Monday).

ATG is recognised as the world’s number one live-theatre group with a total of 40 venues in Britain and on Broadway, including Aylesbury’s £47 million Waterside. Across its venues ATG also issues more than 10 million tickets annually.

By 2016 Aylesbury Vale District Council will have subsidised the theatre by £1.75m having signed a management contract back in 2010.

Rises in ATG profits have led to calls for the AVDC subsidy to be reduced and the contract is up for renegotiation next year.

The terms of Providence’s takeover have not been disclosed. But former majority shareholders Exponent will retain a minority stake in ATG as part of the deal, and will continue to work with Providence and the existing management team including ATG’s joint CEOs and co-founders Sir Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire.

Greg Dyke, who heads up England’s Football Association, will continue in his role as ATG chairman.

Providence is the world’s leading private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments. It has invested in more than 130 companies globally since its inception in 1989.

Prior to the sale, Exponent had been ATG’s majority shareholder since 2009 when the company acquired Live Nation’s UK theatres.

ATG’s joint CEO’s Sir Howard and his wife Rosemary said in a statement that the deal would help the theatre group ‘focus on its international ambitions’.

“We’re thrilled with today’s announcement and very pleased to be working alongside Providence in taking ATG into the next exciting phase of its development.

“This new partnership cements the foundations for the company’s planned future growth. Providence’s extensive global reach and its existing investments in media, digital and live entertainment companies around the world offer an unparalleled opportunity for ATG to realise its international ambitions.

“We’re also pleased to be maintaining our close working relationship with Exponent with whom we’ve enjoyed some real success over the past four years.”

Andrew Tisdale, managing director of Providence, said: “We have been very impressed by the management of ATG who have built a terrific company over more than 20 years. We believe strongly in the long term value of live entertainment.

“ATG is well-known for the high quality of its theatrical and musical content and venues and we look forward to working closely with Howard, Rosemary, their senior management team and Exponent in continuing to grow ATG.”