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Kili launches dedicated theatre arm, Kilimanjaro Theatricals

Stuart Galbraith, founder and CEO of UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live, and theatre producer Joshua Andrews have announced the launch of Kilimanjaro Theatricals, a new joint venture which will produce and/or co-produce theatrical productions internationally.

London-based Kilimanjaro Theatricals will develop both its own works and a number of “strategic co-productions” in partnership with other producers on a global basis. The new company’s first projects are 9 to 5: The Musical, currently running in the West End of London, Australian production Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, playing in Melbourne then Sydney, and Hadestown, now previewing on Broadway in New York.

The launch of Kilimanjaro Theatricals follows the acquisition of a majority stake by Kili’s parent company, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG), in theatrical promoter Flying Music Group in August 2017.

The UK market accounts for around 40% of DEAG’s group turnover, the Berlin-based company said later that year, with DEAG and its affiliates forming “one of the leading promoters and theatre producers” in Britain.

“Kilimanjaro Group has wanted to land into the world of theatre and musical theatre for several years”

“Kilimanjaro Group has wanted to land into the world of theatre and musical theatre for several years,” says Galbraith, who has led the company since its formation in 2008. “We are hugely excited to combine our ambitions with Josh’s excellent skills and experience in this new venture.”

Two-time Olivier-nominated Andrews, who will also continue to independently produce his existing portfolio, adds: “Stuart and I have been talking about this idea for some time and I am delighted to now be starting this journey with him and the talented Kilimanjaro team.

“We believe that by combining our varied skills, experience and relationships we can create an exciting and successful new theatrical enterprise, and we look forward to developing our own works, as well as co-producing with others around the world.”

Kilimanjaro, whose music touring roster includes Ed Sheeran, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the 1975, celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, following its best-ever year in 2017.


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Quadruple Deutsche: Four decades of DEAG

At one point in our interview – after taking us through four decades of live events history and entrepreneurship on the highest level – Peter Schwenkow pauses and says: “Which brings us to the answer to a question you have yet to ask: Why are you still doing this?”

Frankly, it had never occurred to IQ to ask why he’s still doing this. The promoter recently expanded the company’s presence in the UK market by buying Flying Music, its turnover is more than €108 million in the last three quarters and it’s back in profit after a turbulent 2016.

He’s recently had hit tours with Disney on Ice, Ed Sheeran, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden and Kiss, and has 2.2 million tickets already sold for 2018. Now, aged 64, he seems to still have the same joy for the business he discovered more than 40 years ago.

“It must have been 1974 or ’75. After completing my school exams in Hamburg, I was working as a tour manager for Karsten Jahnke. Because I had my own car and a driver’s licence, I was the one picking up artists like Ulrich Roski or Mike Krüger from the airport, and driving them around northern Germany and Hamburg,” Schwenkow remembers.

One person had a bigger impact on him than anyone else had at that point: writer and performer Hanns Dieter Hüsch, one of Germany’s most distinguished left-wing intellectuals and cabaret artists. Schwenkow, who had a politically conservative upbringing, remembers the countless hours of conversation he had with Hüsch. “He was around 50–60 years old, I was 20. We used to have wonderful arguments about politics, and eventually developed a friendship. This led me to think: ‘If it is possible to meet such interesting, exciting, powerfully eloquent and intelligent people in this business, I want to be a part of it.’”

It was the mid 1970s, and the business looked very different to today. “One lamp on the left, one on the right, five Marshalls in the back and something that started to resemble a PA,” Schwenkow recalls. “If an artist wasn’t able to perform – because it was still sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in the 1970s – they simply didn’t.”

“If an artist wasn’t able to perform – because it was still sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in the 1970s – they simply didn’t”

After leaving school, Schwenkow studied advertising and communication science in Berlin, and worked part-time for the city’s biggest promoter at the time, Konzertdirektion Jänicke, starting out as technical director. He went on to do the promotion and different other jobs for Jänicke, working mostly from home. His boss had promised him his own office once he could afford a bigger space, and even offered to make him a junior partner.

In 1978, Jänicke moved into a huge new villa. “When I had my first appointment with him there, he was sitting in an office that seemed as large as a football field,” Schwenkow remembers. “There was only one desk in it, so I said: ‘Mr Jänicke, now that we’ve got these new facilities, where is my desk going to be?’ And he replied that we had to talk about that again. That’s when I realised that he had used me for the past two years.”

So Schwenkow called his old friend Jochen Zanke, whom he met while working for two other legends of the game: Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau, where Zanke was tour manager. “I said: ‘Jochen, I think we should start our own thing and prove to this old man that you can be competitive, even with less resources.’

“So on 15 June 1978, the industrial management assistant Jochen Zanke, and the student Peter Schwenkow, founded Concert Concept.”

Forty years of development
From those early beginnings, DEAG’s 40-year history can be more or less subdivided into four decades that defined the business in different ways. “For the first 10–11 years, from 1978 to 1989, Concert Concept established itself as the biggest promoter in Berlin,” says Schwenkow, who adds that the exclusive takeover of Berlin’s Waldbühne (22,290-cap.) in 1981 was “one of the most important factors for our growth,” as it gave him control over the most exclusive address for open-air events in the city. He kept renewing the lease contract, running the show at Waldbühne for 27 years to come.

In 1984, Schwenkow created the Berliner Sommernachtstraum, which attracted some 400,000 people to a gigantic firework display by Austrian artist André Heller in front of the city’s Reichstag. At the time, the city was still divided by the Berlin wall, and the concert provoked unrest in East Berlin from those on the other side, who were disappointed they couldn’t see the spectacle too.

In 1988, Schwenkow lined up Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Eurythmics to perform. … A year later, on 9 November 1989, the wall fell

Three years later, he promoted the legendary Concert for Berlin with David Bowie and Michael Jackson, right next to the wall. It’s a concert that’s gone down as a key moment in the history of that city. Bowie told Performing Songwriter in 2003: “They’d backed up the stage to the wall itself so that the wall was acting as our backdrop. We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall.

“So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.”

In 1988, Schwenkow lined up Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Eurythmics to perform. Many young people in East Germany tried to get close to the wall to hear the concert. At one point during sound check, Pink Floyd turned their PA system around to point eastwards, and blasted out The Wall. The concerts provoked further violence between young people and the police in East Berlin, but the end was nigh for the country’s division. A year later, on 9 November 1989, the wall fell – and the number of potential concertgoers doubled over night.


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DEAG posts €0.3m profit in H1 2017

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) today posted encouraging financial results for the first half (H1) of 2017, recording a return to profit following six months of “strong organic growth”.

Turnover rose 14.4%, to €90.2 million, while earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were €300,000, as compared to a €3.6m loss in H1 2016.

Successful H1 2017 on-sales included “spectator magnets” Ed Sheeran, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Aerosmith, Craig David and the Matapaloz metal festival (Böhse Onkelz, Slayer, Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Anthrax) at the Hockheimring, with family favourites Disney on Ice and Tini, starring Violetta, and UK concert series Kew the Music and Live at Chelsea also proving popular.

“We’re already looking forward optimistically to 2018”

Ticket sales through DEAG’s local MyTicket portals (in Germany, Austria and the UK) also “contributed significantly”, according to the half-year report.

“We’re already looking forward optimistically to 2018,” writes DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow, anticipating a strong fourth quarter. “Event pre-sales are quite promising.

“We also reached another important milestone with our recent acquisition of the British event promoter Flying Music Group. That will help us make better use of the growth opportunities in our second home market in the UK. We’re expecting significant growth impulses from our UK business for the upcoming year.”


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DEAG/Kili acquires majority stake in Flying Music

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has, through its UK subsidiary Kilimanjaro Live, acquired 60% of Flying Music Group, a British promoter of concerts and stage shows.

The deal, valued at £5 million, sees DEAG chairman Peter Schwenkow achieve his ambition of acquiring another British-based promoter, first hinted at last August when he said the company was exploring “opportunistic acquisition opportunities” following better-than-expected growth in the UK.

According to DEAG, Flying Music – whose current shows include Thriller Live (pictured), The Toxic Avenger: The Musical, The Kite Runner and musicians John Mayall, Joe Brown and Midge Ure – turned over around €20m last year and has “been profitable since its inception”. Following the acquisition, DEAG expects its UK revenues to top €100m in 2018.

The Berlin-based company says it may consider increasing its share in Flying Music “depending on its future business development”.

“These are exciting times for DEAG and Kilimanjaro,” says Kili CEO Stuart Galbraith. “Our core business of live music is continuously growing. We are expecting to have another record year in 2018 with more than two million tickets sold in the UK.

“We’re excited to be entering into a new chapter with the combined international strength of Kilimanjaro Live and DEAG behind us”

“We have also been able to achieve the growth of the last three years by diversifying our business model beyond live music into projects such as The Illusionists, Tape Face and Dinosaurs in the Wild. The Flying Music Group deal is another important step in our expansion into West End touring musicals and theatre. The huge experience of Paul [Walden] and Derek [Nicol] and the Flying Music Group makes it a strong, complimentary partner. We’re looking forward to working together with DEAG to continue the Flying Music Group’s growth in the UK and worldwide.”

The theatrical and family entertainment markets are currently a major focus for DEAG, whose Q1 2017 financial results – which followed the cancellation of several festivals and a rebuke by German financial watchdog FREP for “overstating” its financial success – showed a drop in revenue and profits. Its half-year results are due at the end of August.

In a joint statement, Flying Music co-CEOs Walden and Nichol say: “As an independent promoter, this is an exciting development for the Flying Music Group. As our company continues to grow, we’re excited to be entering into a new chapter with the combined international strength of Kilimanjaro Live and DEAG behind us. We have known and admired Stuart and his team for many years and are looking forward to working together in the future.”

DEAG acquired Gold Entertainment, a German promoter of schlager (crooner) shows, in February.


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