Second City: up for sale Credit: Johnny Knight

Update: Second City is not the only legendary Chicago comedy theater on the market. On Friday, October 9, Charna Halpern of iO, which ceased operations in June, announced that both the business and the Kingsbury Street building that has housed the company (including two main theaters and two cabaret spaces in addition to classrooms and a bar) since 2014 were for sale. A press release from iO said “After 40 years of success, Charna decided to put the business and property up for sale. The current pandemic hit the theater industry hard and iO was one of its victims.”

Yes, And . . . Second City is for sale!

It was announced today that the iconic comedy company is on the block, for only the second time in its 60-year history.  

The longtime leader in improv and sketch comedy performance and education, with theaters in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto, Second City has expanded over the years into television production (SCTV) and touring companies, as well as business services; it now serves 25,000 students and “hundreds of Fortune 1000 clients.”

There’s been some recent upheaval, however. In addition to the pandemic shutdown, which has temporarily put a stop to live performance at its Chicago and Los Angeles theaters, longtime producer, co-owner, and former CEO Andrew Alexander abruptly left the staff in June, after accusations of institutional racism surfaced.  Alexander took responsibility and apologized as he exited, and Anthony LeBlanc was immediately named to replace him as interim executive producer. 

“I have had an extraordinary 47-year run,” Alexander says in today’s announcement, but “it is time for a new generation with fresh ideas to take the company to the next level.” President Steve Johnston touts the company’s “green shoots” and a growth plan that “leverages Second City’s unique position in the comedy ecosystem . . . to capture market share in the short to medium term, as well as accelerate a transition toward digital delivery of programming, which is already off to a great start.”

The sale is being handled by  Los Angeles-based investment bank Houlihan Lokey.

Founded in 1959 by Bernie Sahlins, Paul Sills, and Howard Alk, Second City was sold by Sahlins in 1985 to Alexander and investor Len Stuart. (Alexander had become head of Second City’s Toronto outpost in 1974, and Stuart, who died in 2016, first came on board as an investor in SCTV.) Its unequaled roster of alumni include Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Gilda Radner, and Joan Rivers.

Yes, And so many more.  v