Lloyd Webber to restore theatres after regaining control of empire

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The Independent Culture

And with total control over his fiefdom, he is set to press ahead with a five-year, £10m refurbishment of his eight theatres, which include the Grade I listed Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and the London Palladium. (A ninth, the Gielgud, is leased from the impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh.)

Lloyd Webber, with Sir Cameron, has been a staunch critic of the state of the West End and its theatres, many of which are languishing in desperate need of repair. Sources close to him insisted the deal, announced yesterday for an unspecified price, signalled a long-term commitment to the fate of his own auditoriums.

The composer of hits including Phantom of the Opera and Cats bought many of the jewels in his theatrical crown from the Stoll Moss Theatres company owned by Janet Holmes à Court in 2000 with Bridgepoint, a private equity partner. He already owned two theatres and a half-share in another which were then transferred into the new portfolio, known as Really Useful Theatres.

But he stood down from the board of the theatres business two years ago while continuing to run the Really Useful Group (RUG), the production and management company he established in 1977 in which he is the 100 per cent shareholder.

It emerged last month that he was carrying out a strategic review of the work of RUG. It is a massive business which has made him a personal fortune of around £700m but takes up time he would rather spend composing.

It is thought possible he could even bring in others to run the dozens of productions of his shows around the world and his intellectual property rights. His empire includes video and concert productions, merchandising, records and music publishing. Alternatively, he could even sell those rights - though he has sold part of his business before, only to buy it back years later.

Whatever happens to RUG, sources close to him insisted that he was genuinely "thrilled" at resuming control of the theatres now that Bridgepoint wanted out.

A spokesman for Bridgepoint said: "We welcome the announcement by Andrew Lloyd Webber of his plans for the continued development of a unique set of theatre assets."

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