A New York judge declined to intervene in a battle for Jujamcyn Theaters’ lucrative concessions business — a win for Ambassador Theatre Group after acquiring control of the Broadway landlord.
Sweet Hospitality Group has handled drink and snack sales for Jujamcyn’s five theaters since 2010. Last month, Sweet Hospitality filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court to prevent Jujamcyn under its new regime from terminating the concessions contract. The complaint provides a window into Broadway concessions and the deal that Jujamcyn and the multinational landlord and producer Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) announced in February “to combine operations.”
PincusCo Media reported that ATG and its private equity parent, Providence Equity Partners, acquired a 93 percent stake in Jujamcyn. As part of the $308 million deal, Jujamcyn President Jordan Roth retained a 7 percent stake and Jujamcyn acquired a 7 percent stake in ATG’s two previously-acquired Broadway houses, the Hudson and Lyric, according to the analysis of property records.
Per its concession contract with Sweet Hospitality, should Jujamcyn “cease to own and/or operate any one or more of the Theatres, this Agreement, insofar as it relates to the particular theatre or theatres, shall not be operative.” The contract was to expire in February 2025 and required that disputes be resolved through arbitration.
In seeking a temporary restraining order “as it plans to initiate an arbitration,” Sweet Hospitality argued that Jujamcyn owned and operated its venues even after the ATG deal closed in June. Sweet Hospitality noted that it continues to pay weekly commissions — 47.5 percent of sales, less taxes and credit card commissions, totaling almost $50 million to-date — to Jujamcyn.
When the musical New York, New York closed prematurely at the St. James Theatre in July, the notice came from Roth — not ATG — according to Sweet Hospitality. Jujamcyn’s other theaters are the Walter Kerr (Hadestown), the Al Hirschfeld (Moulin Rouge!), Eugene O’Neill (The Book of Mormon), and August Wilson (Cabaret, in 2024).
Jujamcyn hasn’t formally responded to the suit, which was first reported by Marc Hershberg in Forbes. None of the companies involved commented for this story.
Sweet Hospitality, which spent $250,000 to upgrade concessions spaces as part of its most recent contract, said that 60 percent of its revenue is tied to its agreement with Jujamcyn.
But according to John Rogers, ATG’s general counsel for North America, “the Agreement is no longer effective since ATG is now operating the Jujamcyn theatres.” In a letter to a Sweet Hospitality lawyer last month that was filed in court, he wrote: “We intend to move forward on the transition of the concessions operations at those theatres to ATG.”
Stephen Lewin, ATG’s CEO for North America, earlier wrote to Sweet Hospitality President Julie Rose that “the Jujamcyn executive staff now reports to, and is supervised by, the ATG management team.” He explained, “Jujamcyn was acquired by an entity created for the acquisition that is controlled by ATG.”
On Thursday, Judge Andrew Borrok declined to issue a restraining order against ATG-Jujamcyn. He questioned why Sweet Hospitality hadn’t filed its complaint earlier or initiated an arbitration, given that ATG first claimed in late June that it had legal basis to end the concessions agreement. But in his decision, the judge was sympathetic to Sweet Hospitality’s position, writing that it “establishes a likelihood of success on the merits” and that Jujamcyn “continues to own and operate” its theaters.
ATG is majority-owned by funds managed by Providence Equity Partners. Providence first bought its stake in ATG a decade ago, a lifetime in the world of private equity. Some on Broadway speculate that the Jujamcyn deal is intended to make the overall portfolio more attractive to a buyer. In October, ATG abruptly replaced CEO Mark Cornell with Ted Stimpson, a self-described “theatre enthusiast” who’s run various companies in travel and leisure.
In a Nov. 3 letter, ATG’s Rogers requested that Sweet Hospitality remove its property from the August Wilson the following week. That’s in preparation for Cabaret, which should be a concessions bonanza. For example, ATG is offering champagne and a light meal as part of $789 “Stage-Side Dining Experience” tickets.
ATG’s North American general counsel also demanded that the concessions company scrub its web site of any references to Jujamcyn. As of Dec. 3, Sweet Hospitality still lists Jujamcyn and its five theaters as clients.