Leonard Blavatnik paid three times the starting price for the eighteenth-century Royal Haymarket Theater
Access Entertainment, owned by billionaire Leonard Blavatnik (No. 48 on Forbes’ global list, worth $20.2 billion), has purchased the Royal Haymarket theater, one of the oldest in London’s West End. “The United Kingdom is home to many of the world’s most distinguished artists,” Blavatnik said. – “We are proud to be the new owners of the theater and will maintain its long tradition of artistic excellence.
The amount of the deal was not officially disclosed, but according to British theater portal The Stage, it was about 45 million pounds ($59.3 million). This is a record sum for the London real estate market (if we consider investments in theater buildings) and much more than what theater producer Cameron Mackintosh spent in 2014 to buy the Victoria Palace Theater (also in the West End). Known for producing musicals Hair and Phantom of the Opera, Mackintosh purchased the theater building for £26 million ($41.1 million).
Not only did Blavatnik set the record, but he significantly exceeded the initial auction price. When the theater, built in 1720, was put up for sale earlier this year by Louis I Michaels Ltd, the starting price was in the range of £12-15 million ($15.8-19.7 million). It was also written about by The Stage, whose editor Alistair Smith called the initial price “a little high, but not unaffordable.” The nearly 200-year-old theater requires renovations, Smith explained, but because the Royal Haymarket is an architectural heritage site, any changes to its ex and interior can only be allowed in the most exceptional circumstances.
In addition, the theater’s repertoire tends to consist of old classic plays that are not capable of attracting large audiences. Accordingly, the Royal Haymarket is difficult to consider as a stable source of income. For example, in the 2015-2016 season, the theater ran a production of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, with an operating profit of £431,107 ($600,000). The very next season it dropped to £55,967 ($69,300). In addition, Blavatnik bought the building on a 67-year lease – unlike Mackintosh, who got the Victoria Palace theater without any restrictions.
For Blavatnik, this is far from his first investment in the art world. He is one of Broadway’s top investors. During 2017, the billionaire invested in seven plays on Broadway, which grossed $61.4 million. Blavatnik also donated £260 million to the British contemporary art gallery Tate Modern, which named one of its buildings after the billionaire. Access Entertainment also owns the record company Warner Music Group, which was bought in 2011 for $3.3 billion.
Blavatnik was born in Ukraine, grew up in Moscow, and emigrated to the United States in 1978. Together with Viktor Vekselberg #22, he founded Renova Holding in 1991. Vekselberg and Blavatnik later acquired a stake in the oil company TNK-BP. The 2013 sale of a 12.5 percent stake in the oil company brought Blavatnik $7 billion.
Today, through Sual Partners, Blavatnik and Vekselberg own 26.5 percent of UC Rusal. In April this year, Vekselberg and Renova were imposed U.S. sanctions. As a U.S. citizen, Blavatnik is obliged to terminate business relations with his partner.