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West End theatre ownership set for shake-up

Visitors queue outside the ticket booth for discounted tickets. The Half Price Ticket Booth in Leicester Square at the heart of London's Theatreland. Pic:Stefano Cagnoni

27 October 2010

Theatre workers employed by Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group are being briefed about the sale of venues to a consortium led by Michael Grade.

The possible sale, which has been in discussion for several months, has yet to be confirmed, but the staff briefing suggests that the negotiations are close to a conclusion.

Four theatres could be sold

The proposed share sale would see ownership of the Palace, the New London, the Cambridge and Her Majesty's theatres transfer to the new owners.

Writing to staff yesterday, Andre Ptaszynski, chief executive of the Really Useful Group, said:

"As the proposed transaction progresses we will carefully consider the implications for all employees who would be affected by such a sale. In the event that the sale proceeds, we are fully committed to a process of information provision and consultation, where appropriate, with staff (and trade unions) to make sure that we cover all employee issues and concerns."

The proposal is that staff currently employed by Really Useful Theatres Ltd, New London Theatre Properties Ltd, Palace Theatre London Ltd and New London Theatre Ltd would continue be employed by the same employer, albeit that the ownership of these companies would change. Mr Ptaszynski raises the question of staff in the company's pension scheme as a possible exception and goes on to state that "we will of course be in touch with those individuals with further specific information as the discussions progress."

The plan is that the Really Useful Group woulld retain ownership of its three biggest theatres - the Palladium, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Adelphi which is part-owned with Nederlander - in the restructuring.

Small number of job losses?

However, with a smaller theatre business to manage, Mr Ptaszynski acknowledges that job losses could result amongst staff in the retained part in the business although he believes "that a relatively small number of employees are [sic] likely to be affected."

BECTU is the recognised trade union for theatre workers and the union's Commercial West End Theatres branch is one of the biggest in the union.

"Whilst unsettling to a degree, I am sure that our members will appreciate the advance information provided so far as it addresses long-running speculation about the future of the group. This is a situation we'll obviously be watching closely in preparation for future talks on a range of issues including pensions," said Willy Donaghy, supervisory official for BECTU's Arts and Entertainment division.

 

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