The Second City comedy theatre — where performers including Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Bill Murray, John Candy, Martin Short, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and others got their start — has been put up for sale.
In a statement released Tuesday, co-owner Andrew Alexander said a sale presents the opportunity for Second City to succeed well into the future.
“I have had an extraordinary 47-year run guiding this wonderful living, breathing, dynamic comedy institution. Watching the talent development process has given me more joy than one person should be allowed. But it is time for a new generation with fresh ideas to take the company to the next level,” Alexander said, in the statement released by Los Angeles investment bank Houlihan Lokey, which is advising Second City’s owners on the sale.
“What we are seeking is critical reinvestment in the business that will allow us to continue to grow in the right ways and with the right resources while remaining an oasis of speaking truth to power and providing vital human connection in an increasingly complex world.”
Founded in 1959 in Chicago, Second City expanded over the years with locations in Hollywood, Calif., and Toronto as of 1973. The company suspended all its shows and classes in early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although it has since reopened on a limited basis. The Toronto location is capped at 50 audience members, which is less than one sixth of the venue’s capacity, and mask wearing is mandatory.
The company faced controversy in June when Alexander stepped down from the training and performance troupe due to allegations of racism within the company.
Second City is co-owned by Alexander and D’Arcy Stuart, although its president, Steve Johnston, also has a small equity share. When he stepped down, Alexander said he was going to sell his half of the theatre. The two co-owners decided rather than try to sell about half of the institution, it makes more sense to market the entire operation. The theatre was sold once before in the years after Bernie Sahlins, Howard Alk and Paul Sills launched the comedy theatre in 61 years ago.
The theatre has several arms beyond its mainstage theatres in Chicago and Toronto, including a long-standing comedy training school, a film school and a corporate division that has maintained much of its revenue by offering online training and education to clients.
Second City was an early training ground for Saturday Night Live players, including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and Chris Redd, among other comedy stars. The company produced the SCTV TV series in the ’70s and ’80s.