Second City, the legendary comedy theater, which for more than half a century has helped define American humor, was sold on Thursday to a private equity group, the company said in a statement. ZMC Group, led by Strauss Zelnick, invests in media entities; Zelnick is also the Managing Director of Take-Two Interactive Software, the video game conglomerate behind Grand Theft Auto.
This is the first time Second City, which is based in Chicago and has outposts in Hollywood and Toronto, has changed ownership since the 1980s, when Andrew Alexander, producer and former director of the Toronto site, took over. the next generation as co-owner and chef. executive. Since opening in 1959, Second City has helped ignite the careers of Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Keegan Michael-Key. Before the pandemic, it was almost certainly the largest live-action comedy company in the country, with more than 700 full and part-time employees and an Actors Equity stage contract. The sale price was not disclosed but was estimated to be around $ 50 million, according to the Financial Times.
In the statement, Steve Johnston, President of Second City (also known as The Second City), said, “We are delighted to be working with ZMC as we continue to transform the business into a fair and prosperous environment. by delivering world-class comedy. to our audience. “
The move comes as Second City grapples with a drop in business caused by pandemic closures. He’s scaled back his in-person shows, tours, classes, and corporate workshops – a big part of his business – although theater aimed to bounce back with online comedy and digital content. When Alexander announced he was looking for buyers last October, he said it was “time for a new generation with new ideas to take the business to the next level.”
Second City also attempted to restructure after intense criticism of their management of the breed. Alexander, who had been involved in the theater for nearly 50 years, abruptly quit last summer after black performers publicly detailed their experiences of stereotyping and belittling. A series of open letters from artists and staff of color then outlined complicated and costly steps for the theater to tackle institutional racism, and Second City leaders agreed to make comprehensive changes.
“We are ready to tear everything down and start over,” the theater executives wrote in an open letter. They appointed a new interim CEO, Anthony LeBlanc, the first black leader in the company’s history, and took many other steps, even as his performance spaces remained closed.
The sale announcement suggested that ZMC would not abandon this plan. “We are very excited to partner with the leadership and incredible talent of The Second City to grow the brand and build a diverse organization that raises all voices,” said Jordan Turkewitz, Co-Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner at ZMC , in the press release. .