VSS buys US cinema group(2)

US media and communications specialist Veronis Suhler Stevenson has bought Amstar Entertainment for its platform company Southern Theatres as the group focuses on multiple acquisitions to build value.

US private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson has bought AmStar Entertainment through its platform company Southern Theatres for $40.5 million (€30 million).

AmStar Entertainment operates seven multiplex cinemas with 96 screens in total. The cinemas are located in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Florida.

This is the second add-on acquisition for Southern Theatres, which Veronis Suhler Stevenson bought in 2005. Southern’s  chief executive is George Solomon, the previous chief executive of Gulf States Theatres, a family owned company. Southern Theatres is expected to operate in 19 cinemas with 282 screens by the end of 2007, which would make it one of the twenty largest cinema groups in the US.

Veronis Suhler Stevenson’s fourth fund of $1.3 billion has committed approximately $630 million so far in 14 platform companies and 10 add-on companies. As well as Southern, this fund also holds education company Cambium Learning and UK satellite broadcaster The Chart Show Group.

In the UK two of the biggest cinema chains are owned by private equity firms. Blackstone Group raised £240 million on 27 April through its IPO of UK cinema group, Cineworld, of which it is still the majority owner, while UK buyout firm Terra Firma owns UK rival, Odeon.