Industry Noize: NorVa and The National Change Hands

AEG Live officially announced its acquisition of The National Theatre in Richmond, Va., and The NorVa Theatre in Norfolk. The latter will now house a regional office for the company that will be run by The NorVa’s prior owners, Bill Reid and Rick Mersel.

The 1,450-capacity NorVa, which is a few blocks away from Virginia Commonwealth University, will have what will be officially known as AEG Live’s Mid-Atlantic regional office, serving as a base of operations for touring and venue opportunities. The office will be run by what was previously Rising Tide Productions.

“We are fortunate to have acquired these two incredible historic and important theatres that will join AEG Live’s portfolio of elite venues,” AEG Live CEO Jay Marciano said in a statement.  “We are also privileged to now have the opportunity to work with Bill Reid and Rick Mersel as part of our AEG Live team.  Their experience in the industry and this marketplace in particular will benefit both our organization and the guests who attend events in the theatres.”

Reid, now a VP of AEG Live, said AEG’s purchase will increase the venues’ status as “must play” facilities.

“Having the ability to book these venues alongside of AEG Live’s other well regarded properties in addition to taking advantage of AEG Live’s well-established and deep artist relationships will truly benefit all of our guests,” Reid said.

The National was purchased for $6.7 million and The Norva for $5.9 million, according to property records obtained by the paper. The National’s value, according to city records, was recently assessed at more than $11 million, according to the Richmond BizSense.  The National underwent a full restoration in 2008 at a cost of $15.6 million, according to AEG.

The Norva opened in 1917 as a vaudeville theatre then became a movie theatre. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2000.

The sales marked the end of a lawsuit filed last year against two managers of The National, Reid and Scott Benton, who were sued by minority owner James River Entertainment for alleged mismanagement, concealing revenue from ticket sales and failing to pay payroll taxes, among other charges. Benton and Reid were also part owners in The Norva.

James River Entertainment attorney James Cosby told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the suit was dismissed as the sale “represented a proper liquidity event in the range we had insisted” for the company’s stake in the venue.

This isn’t the first time The National, which opened in 1923, has changed hands. The venue was most recently purchased by the Richmond Theatre Foundation in 2006, and was renovated and reopened in 2008.

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