Co-founder Peter Beckwith sells stake in Ambassador Theatre Group


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The Independent Online

Property tycoon Peter Beckwith, father of the socialite Tamara, has sold his stake in the world’s biggest live theatre company, Ambassador Theatre Group, which he co-founded more than 20 years ago.

Mr Beckwith sold his minority stake in the business to US private equity firm Providence Equity Partners as part of a deal valuing the entire company at about £250m, taking his personal profits from the business to several millions of pounds. He is now quitting.

ATG takes in 40 theatres across the UK and on Broadway and its productions include current hits like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Monty Python’s Spamalot as well as Macbeth starring James McAvoy and The Hothouse starring Simon Russell Beale and John Simm.

But it traces its history back to the early 1990s when Mr Beckwith’s London & Edinburgh Trust redeveloped Woking town centre. He sold the shopping precinct to foreign investors but was left with the 1200 seat theatre and cultural centre. Mr Beckwith went into business with husband-and-wife team Sir Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire and the trio went on to buy other venues around the country. They particularly transformed ATG in 2009 when, in partnership with Exponent Private Equity, they bought Live Nation’s UK theatres including the Apollo Victoria and Lyceum in London, homes to Lion King and Wicked.

“I have done very well out of an accident that turned out to be immensely successful and is now growing like topsy,” Mr Beckwith said. “It has been fantastic fun, meeting wonderful people and I am sad to leave it, but I have not really got so much to offer now. The future growth lies in Australia, Hong Kong, China, where I don’t really have any business these days.”

He added: “What’s been so wonderful about the experience is that it has allowed me, a boy who didn’t even act in school, to take part in a great world I would never have known otherwise. Before we started, I could have written all I know about the theatre on the back of an envelope, really, but now I’ve met most of the leading performers and directors in the West End.”

Exponent retains a minority stake in ATG and Sir Howard and Ms Squire will continue heading the management team. Former BBC director general Greg Dyke will continue as chairman.