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Theatre Royal Haymarket sold to Russian oligarch and Trump donator

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Billionaire businessman Leonard Blavatnik has bought the West End’s historic Theatre Royal Haymarket.

The theatre has been acquired by Access Entertainment, a division of Blavatnik’s Access Industries.

The exact sum paid for the theatre, which has been up for sale since January of this year, is unknown, but it’s understood to be in the region of £45 million.

Blavatnik, who also owns Warner Music Group, is worth about £15.5 billion and came in at no. 3 on the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List, having topped it in 2015. Born in Ukraine and raised in Moscow, he emigrated to the USA in the 70s, and now lives in London. 

He has made several donations to the arts, including a reported £50 million to the Tate Modern. The V&A has an entrance, Blavatnik Hall, named after him in recognition of a £5 million donation to the Exhibition Road redevelopment.

Access Industries has also donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration committee. When this news emerged in late 2017, Oxford University professor Bo Rothstein resigned from the institution's Blavatnik school of government, funded by donations from Blavatnik, in protest at the oligarch's support of Trump. A a spokesman for Access Industries denied that Blavatnik’s company was a major Trump supporter. 

Danny Cohen, President of Access Entertainment, said of the purchase of the Theatre Royal Haymarket: ‘London’s West End is a world-leading powerhouse of artistic talent and through this acquisition we will contribute to its ongoing success. When it comes to great talent, the boundaries between film, television and theatre have never been more porous, so this acquisition creates great opportunities for Access Entertainment across the world.”

This is a record-breaking theatre purchase in the UK, far outstripping the £20 million sale of the Palace Theatre in 2012 and the £26 million paid by producer Cameron Mackintosh for the Victoria Palace in 2016. The huge sum paid by Blavatnik also dwarfs previous offers made for the theatre, reportedly in the region of £12 to £15 million.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is the third-oldest London playhouse still in use, opened in 1720 on Suffolk Street and moved to its current location on the West End in 1821. Through the centuries it has played host to opening nights of Oscar Wilde plays, and was John Gielgud’s home during the Blitz.

 

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