Second City Owners Seek a Buyer For Their Comedy Operations

This year has not been a kind one to those in entertainment, who have been forced to cancel shows and close venues throughout the pandemic. The Second City in Chicago exemplifies this as the owners seek to sell this comedy institution.

The company, which has a number of theaters and comedy venues across the city, needs to find a buyer to take this place forward. The outgoing owners do believe that there is the growth potential with the business, yet they are not the ones who will be realizing that growth.


Not Easy To Find a Buyer

In their efforts to find a buyer, the Second City owners have been discussing just how much success this comedic institution could have in the future. Second City president Steve Johnston said the following regarding the company’s prospects;

“While all our lives have been affected by the pandemic, The Second City has found green shoots that have further highlighted our growth potential.”

While there could certainly be some scope for a company of this size to do well moving forward, there really couldn’t be a worse time to find a buyer. Not only do the current economic conditions present a challenge, but so do the lack of opportunities for a new owner. Anyone buying the company would have to bide their time before they could make money from it.

One thing which an incoming owner may be attracted by is an opening up in the market after the Second City’s biggest competitor was forced to close its doors. In June it was announced that the iO theater would be closing down due to “financial issues.”


How The Comedy Company Could Continue Moving Forward

This is a company which has been a key feature of the Chicago comedy scene for over sixty years. Throughout its existence the theaters under the Second City name have had their stages graced by newcomers to comedy who later went on to become legends. Among the list are Bill Murray, Tina Fey, John Belushi and Steven Colbert, to name just a few.

Sadly, however, it does seem to be a long time before the venues will be filled up with revelers being entertained by comedians. In order for this to happen, the state of Illinois would need to be at Phase Five of its reopening plan. Despite the desire to do this, given the cold winter to come and the ever increasing number of cases statewide and throughout the nation, it’s more probable that the state will go back to Phase Three rather than advance.

There is some hope of a full reopening. We have seen, for example, The Blue Man Group kickstart smaller shows again, as we covered here. As the current owners of the Second City look to find a buyer, they need to ensure that there is some level of incentive, otherwise they will be forced to slash the price.  A lack of ticket sales for example, is a very challenging prospect.


Need For a New Beginning

Much of the reason they are looking to find a buyer for the Second City is that it is in desperate need of a new beginning. This was apparent earlier in the year when then-CEO Andrew Alexander was forced to step down amid allegations of systemic racism at the company. Speaking at the time, Alexander released the following statement;

“The Second City cannot begin to call itself anti-racist. That is one of the great failures of my life.”

There is also, of course, the need for a new beginning following the pandemic which we have gone through. The Second City has shown flexibility here and we covered how they have taken their classes online and have been seeking to provide virtual shows. Whatever the reopening does look like, the owners will have to find a buyer prepared to revolutionize the business.


All or Nothing

Contrary to some reports, we should verify here that the sale will involve all assets under the Second City name. This should give the owners the best chance to find a buyer in the timeframe they have set out.

The concerns among the owners is that if they are not able to find a buyer, then they may not have a company to sell at all. Given what happened to iO, this is a valid concern.

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