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Dateline: 6th August, 1999

US company SFX buys Apollo Leisure

US entertainment group, SFX Entertainment, has bought the British Apollo Leisure Group for 158m. As well as two arenas in Sheffield and Cardiff, the Apollo Group owns 23 theatres nationwide, including the Apollo Hamemrsmith, the Apollo Victoria and the Lyceum in London, the Bristol Hippodrome, the Edinburgh Playhouse, the Old Fire Station and Apollo in Oxford, the Opera House, Palace and Apollo in Manchester, and the Liverpool Empire. Also included in the deal is Tickets Direct, which sold around 6m theatre and concert tickets last year.

Apollo chairman Paul Gregg and his family own 80% of the company and will receive, between them, 126m worth of shares in SFX and Mr Gregg will become chairman of SFX Europe.

SFX were popularly mentioned as a possible co-buyer with Cameron Mackintosh of the Stoll Moss group which went on the market earlier this week, with a price tag of 100m. However, even if they were interested, it is unlikely that the Office of Fair Trading would allow the company to increase its theatre holdings in the UK.

The OFT, incidentally, has made it clear that an investigation by the Compeition Commission would be instigated if a company acquires 25% or more of "services in the UK". It is also likely that acquiring 25% of West End venues would also trigger an investgation.

SFX is the largest operator of live entertainment venues in the world. It recently took over Broadway company Livent, bringing the total of its US venues to 82.

Another theatre company, Crescent, which owns seven West End theatres, including the Whitehall and the Comedy, is also on the market, so within a few months more than half of the theatres in the West End may well have changed hands.

LAB prejudiced, says Carlton

Bob Carlton, writer of the hit musical Return to the Forbidden Planet and artistic director of the the Queen's, Hornchurch, has accused the London Arts Board of "deliberate and divisive discrimination" against venues in the East End. He was writing to Sue Timothy, principal theatre officer of the LAB, over the organisation's decision not to fund the Queen's.

Although the theatre has seen great success over the last 18 months - and has been praised by LAB for it - it has received no funding since 1985.

The theatre had been "punished" previously, Carlton claimed, beause it served the "unimportant and unstrategic outer east London boroughs, and now, he says, "We feel we are being punished for our success."

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