UK panto giant snapped up by private equity company

Crossroads Live, supported by US fund Raven Capital Management, acquires Qdos Pantomimes

The Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime being performed in York last December. Getty Images
The Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime being performed in York last December. Getty Images

The world’s biggest pantomime company has been bought by a private equity company, with the new owners predicting a boom time for theatre as people emerge from Covid lockdowns.

Crossroads Live, with support from US fund Raven Capital Management, is acquiring Qdos Pantomimes, the biggest company in the panto scene. It has staged more than 750 shows over nearly 40 years in theatres all over Britain.

David Ian, chairman of Crossroads Live, said panto “fits naturally” with the company’s existing business, which includes stage productions of Chicago, School of Rock, and from September, My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Qdos is the name behind some of the biggest and most popular pantos at large venues, including the London Palladium, Birmingham Hippodrome and Manchester Opera House, with an average audience of two million people a year.

The UK company employs 47 full-time staff and more than 1,000 actors, musicians and stage managers each year.

“Live theatre will be one of the industries that will recover after a pandemic,” Mr Ian said.

Pantomime dates back to the Middle Ages and is an integral part of a modern theatre’s calendar.

The London Palladium Theatre has panto as an integral part of its annual calendar. Alamy
The London Palladium Theatre has panto as an integral part of its annual calendar. Alamy

The Christmas season shows feature double entendres and call-and-response taglines, such as “He’s behind you!”, and “Oh, no he isn’t!”

Mr Ian said the long-term shutdown of live theatre by Covid-19 provided an opportunity for resource-rich companies to buy smaller producers.

Crossroads closed transactions in Australia and Asia over the past year.

“It was very hard. There was no theatre. At its best, the business was surrounded by risks, no more difficult than in the last 12-18 months, and it will continue.”

Nick Thomas, who founded the company in 1982 and expanded it from a local theatre to a West End powerhouse, will step down as part of the deal.

Updated: May 26, 2021 02:43 PM

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