Chicago’s Second City comedy hub is for sale

Christel Deskins

The Second City, the Chicago improv comedy hub that launched the careers of a host of comedians, is for sale. The sale, announced Tuesday, is only the second one in the company’s 60-year history. It said it has hired the investment bank Houlihan Lokey to provide advice in the sale. […]

The Second City, the Chicago improv comedy hub that launched the careers of a host of comedians, is for sale.

The sale, announced Tuesday, is only the second one in the company’s 60-year history. It said it has hired the investment bank Houlihan Lokey to provide advice in the sale.

“While all our lives have been affected by the pandemic, The Second City has found green shoots that have further highlighted our growth potential,” Steve Johnston, president, said in a statement. “The company’s growth plan leverages Second City’s unique position in the comedy ecosystem as the leader in both education and live sketch and improv performance 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.”

Live theater venues across the country have suffered immeasurable financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic as mandates have either shuttered them or severely restricted the audience capacity. Second City suspended all of its shows and classes in early March, effectively closing down the center’s live performances until further notice.

Second City also faced controversy in June when co-owner Andrew Alexander stepped down from the iconic training/performance troupe due to allegations of racism within the company.

The Second City Toronto’s location re-opened Sept. 1, and launched a new mainstage show this month. The company also has a Hollywood, California, location.

Second City’s galaxy of alums includes John Belushi, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Steve Carell, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert and Dan Aykroyd, among others.

Alexander said in a news release, “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.”

The company emphasized that its corporate shows and other specialized programs have continued online despite the shutdown of most live performances. It said it has hundreds of clients in the Fortune 1000 list of companies.

Alexander told the Chicago Sun-Times in an email that Second City has a long-term lease on its space within the Piper’s Alley complex.

The property is at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Wells Street in Old Town. Records show it has been owned for years by a partnership connected to prominent property-tax lawyer Thomas Tully, former Cook County assessor.

Alexander did not answer additional questions and a representative of Houlihan Lokey declined to discuss the assignment.

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