The Sunday Times has published its annual Sunday Times Rich List 2023, of Britain’s 350 richest people or families.
So it’s time to also compile the West End Theatre Rich List for 2023, highlighting the richest players behind London’s theatre scene – including theatre owners, producers and creators.
The Sunday Times carried out the valuations between February 1 and May 1, 2023, with the compilers of the list measuring identifiable wealth, including land, property, racehorses, art or significant shares in publicly quoted companies; and excluding bank accounts to which they have no access, and small shareholdings in a private equity portfolio. The actual size of their fortunes may be much larger than their conservative figures.
It’s also worth pointing out that this list is solely based on the Sunday Times Rich List – comprising of British citizens, or people who are not British citizens but who live and work in Britain. That means there are a number of West End theatre owners, producers and backers who are not included.
1. Sir Leonard Blavatnik
Owner of the Theatre Royal Haymarket
Worth: £28.625bn, up £8.625bn
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 3 (2023); 4 (2022)
Alongside Blavatnik’s ownership of Warner Music, sports streaming platform DAZN, music streamer Deezer and numerous other investments, Blavatnik owns the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End. Purchased for £45 million, he owns the prestigious London theatre through his movie, TV and theatre company Access Entertainment, run by ex-BBC exec Danny Cohen.
Cohen recently told The Stage newspaper that the Theatre Royal Haymarket is now focusing on reviving the theatre’s tradition of being a playhouse, offering limited-run plays that “strike the balance between premium quality and commercial potential”. Next up at the Haymarket is Accidental Death of an Anarchist starring Daniel Rigby.
Blavatnik’s philanthropy and involvement in the arts includes his recent help to secure the David Bowie archive for the V&A, and co-producing the new Florence Welch musical Gatsby at the American Repertory Theatre. Blavatnik is also involved in Bridge Theatre owner’s Nick Hytner and Nick Starr’s new King’s Cross theatre and arts venture Lightroom.
2. John Gore
Worth: £1.9bn, up £219m
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 90 (2023); 109 (2022)
British theatre producer John Gore and his John Gore Organization is one of the world’s biggest theatre producers, who also distribute and market shows around the world, including Broadway, Off Broadway, the West End, Japan and 48 North American markets. His North America live touring business – Broadway Across America – is especially lucrative, and also owns three American venues.
His successful productions include Ain’t Too Proud – which is currently playing at the Prince Edward Theatre in London; & Juliet – now playing on Broadway; and Hamilton – on Broadway, at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, and around the world.
3. Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Theatre producer and owner
Worth: £1.227bn, up £22m
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 143 (2023); 148 (2022)
Cameron Mackintosh is one of the world’s most successful theatre producers, with productions running in London, on Broadway, and in multiple countries worldwide.
His current West End productions include Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre, London – and the world’s – longest running musical, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera at His Majesty’s Theatre, and Hamilton at the Victoria Palace theatre. Coming up, he has Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends – a tribute to his friend Stephen Sondheim – coming to the Gielgud Theatre from 16 September 2023.
At any one time Cameron also has multiple productions running around the world. He also owns 8 West End theatres through his Delfont Mackintosh Theatres company: the Gielgud, Noël Coward, Novello, Sondheim, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Victoria Palace and Wyndham’s theatres.
Mackintosh celebrated 50 years in theatre in 2021.
4. Elisabeth Murdoch
Entrepreneur and philanthropist in the creative industries
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 147 (2023); 149 (2022)
SISTER, the company set up by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone (sister of the outgoing Royal Court Theatre chief Vicky Featherstone), is building on its successful TV production business, producing such hits as Chernobyl and This is Going To Hurt, with a number of new acquisitions and initiatives – some of which are London theatre related.
In November last year they agreed to partner with the Royal Court on a three year deal to seek out the next generation of new and emerging TV and theatre writers. Sister issued a statement acknowledging “the interconnectedness of UK TV and theatre”, and will run workshops to generate new plays. New plays already coming out of the relationship include Baghdaddy by Jasmine Naziha Jones, and Graceland by Ava Wong Davies.
Sister is also moving into live music and performance, having taken a 40% stake in Camden’s iconic venue KOKO, which now includes a member’s club, restaurant and performance spaces. Expect more live performance and music interests to come.
5. JK Rowling
Author, screenwriter, executive producer
Worth: £875m (up £25m)
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 191 (2023); 202 (2022)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to pack in audiences at the Palace Theatre in London, and on Broadway (the show celebrated 1,000 performances on 1 1 May 2023) and around the world. The show is obviously based on Rowling’s characters from her blockbuster series of Harry Potter novels, and she wrote the original story with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, with Jack Thorne writing the play.
6. Lord Lloyd-Webber
Composer and producer of musicals and theatre owner
Worth: £504m (Re-entry)
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 283= (NEW)
Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most famous names in musical theatre, having composed the music to many of the most successful shows of the last 50 years including Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects of Love and many more.
Currently playing in London is Aspects of Love starring Michael Ball at the Apollo Theatre, and The Phantom of the Opera at His Majesty’s Theatre. He also has The Wizard of Oz coming to the London Palladium in June 2023; and a new production of Sunset Boulevard, directed by Jamie Lloyd and starring Nicole Scherzinger, coming to the Savoy Theatre in September 2023.
Lloyd Webber shows that have recently closed or are closing include Phantom on Broadway, which finally closed after 35 years; and his West End to Broadway transfer of Bad Cinderella, which shuts on 4 June 2023 after a short run.
Lloyd Webber owns 6 West End theatres through his LW Theatres company: the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, The London Palladium, the Cambridge Theatre, the Adelphi Theatre (co-owned with the Nederlander Group), the Gillian Lynne Theatre, and His Majesty’s Theatre.
Earlier this month he composed the anthem for the coronation of King Charles III.
7. Sir Elton John
Musician and composer
Worth: £450m (Re-entry)
Sunday Times Rich List Ranking: 309= (NEW)
Sir Elton has composed a number of hugely successful West End and Broadway musicals, and continues to do so.
His biggest theatre hit by far is Disney’s The Lion King, which continues to play to packed audiences at the Lyceum Theatre in London, on Broadway, and around the world.
Late last year his new musical Tammy Faye The Musical opened at the Almeida Theatre in London to largely positive reviews from the critics, and there are rumours of a West End transfer. Also rumoured to be returning to London at some point soon is Billy Elliot The Musical, namely the recent successful Leicester Curve production.
His other musicals include The Devil Wears Prada, which had a North America try-out last year, and Aida which, again, is rumoured to be heading to London following the show’s recent Netherlands revival.