Stage Entertainment, the London-based theatre chain, was also bidding but has now dropped out, I’m told. Grade has teamed up with theatrical agent Michael Linnit and private investors to acquire the New London, Her Majesty’s, Cambridge and Palace theatres. Of the four, the New London needs the most renovation – although the sightlines of the Palace are dreadful. Theatre producers I’ve spoken to have welcomed the deal. “I think it is good news,” says Matthew Byam Shaw, producer of Enron. “They will probably be decent owners.” Grade’s uncle, Lord Delfont, was a famous theatrical impresario who owned the prestigious London Palladium which Lloyd Webber now runs. Back in 2005, Grade and Linnit attempted to buy Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group before the theatre mogul decided not to sell. Lloyd-Webber’s other “crown jewel” venue remains the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Lloyd-Webber bought his theatre empire for £90 million in 2000 before selling four venues to Nimax Theatres in October 2005. His Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies opened in March here to mostly negative reviews. It’s looking unlikely that the Phantom sequel will open on Broadway in the spring of 2011 as planned. Its director and choreographer have defected to rival production Catch Me If You Can.
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