Lloyd Webber in pounds 50m buyout of Polygram stake

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The Independent Online
THE COMPOSER Andrew Lloyd Webber has spent pounds 50m to settle his long-running dispute with the record company that last year sabotaged a hit single written by him.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, composer of Evita and Phantom of the Opera, is to buy the 30 per cent stake in his Really Useful theatre and music company which was owned by Polygram, for $75m (pounds 48m). The move gives him 100 per cent control of the copyright to his work for the first time.

Last December Lord Lloyd-Webber accused Polygram of manipulating the charts after it cut by one penny the price of the Boyzone single "No Matter What", taken from his musical Whistle Down The Wind. The cut, to pounds 1.78, after a long run at number one, put the single below the threshold for further inclusion in the charts, thus making way for another Boyzone single.

The deal values Lord Lloyd-Webber's group at more than pounds 150m, and comes in the week that his great West End rival, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, increased his prestige by buying two London theatres.

Last year Polygram was taken over by the drinks giant Seagram and absorbed into Universal, Seagram's entertainment arm.

Lord Lloyd-Webber had long wanted to buy the stake, but the old Polygram board had refused to sell.

Universal will retain the rights to publish and promote the composer's back-catalogue of music and records, butwill relinquish any stake in the copyrights.

Lord Lloyd-Webber said: "This will make the Really Useful Group unique in the theatre business as both copyright-holder and producer of its own shows and music and the company will go forward as a truly independent home for writers, musicians and creative artists."

The organisation was founded in 1979 as a vehicle for staging Andrew Lloyd Webbermusicals and holding the copyrights. It diversified into video and TV programming. In the 1980s, when his fame was at its height, the composer took the group public. However, the City never really took to the company, and he took the firm private again. After losses in 1997, the company returned to profit in 1998, helped by a three- million selling video of Cats. Pre-tax profits were pounds 12.5m.

The next production is expected to be a video of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first Lloyd Webber musical, dating from 1968.