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Radio City Muisic Hall Buys Tommy Walker Productions

July 19, 1986|MICHAEL FEIBUS | Times Staff Writer

Tommy Walker Productions, whose credits include Miss Liberty Weekend's fireworks finale July 4 and the 1984 Summer Olympics ceremonies in Los Angeles, has been purchased by the rejuvenated Radio City Music Hall Productions Inc. for an undisclosed price.

Neither Walker Productions nor Radio City would reveal the exact cost of the transaction. A Radio City spokeswoman in New York would say only that the price tag for the acquisition, completed Thursday, was "seven figures."

The deal is Radio City's first major acquisition since 1978, when it launched a diversification strategy in a last-ditch effort to save New York's historic music hall from the wrecking ball.

Tommy Walker, 63, founder of the Newport Beach company and one of the world's best-known thrill-and-frill producers, will continue as executive producer for the company that bears his name. Walker also will be executive producer for events at the famous Radio City Music Hall.

The acquisition "will greatly enhance the capabilities and the national prominence of our event division," Richard H. Evans, Radio City's chairman and president, said in a prepared statement. Evans estimated that Walker's business will generate an additional $5.5 million in revenue a year for Radio City, which last year pulled in $37 million. Radio City plans to close Walker Productions' Newport Beach office in September and move into the New York firm's West Coast headquarters in Beverly Hills.

Walker said he was pleased with the move. "Radio City Music Hall has long been synonymous with quality entertainment, and I am proud to become a part of this organization," he said in a news release. "I will now be able to spend more time on creative planning and business development."

Walker, a 31-year veteran of the visual spectacles business, formed his Walker Productions in 1967 after a 12-year stint as Disneyland's director of entertainment and customer relations.

After graduating from USC, where he earned the nickname "Tommy the Toe" as a standout place kicker, Walker turned down a pro-football contract with the Washington Redskins, opting to stay on campus to direct the Trojan marching band. He held that post from 1948 until personally recruited by Walt Disney to take the Disneyland post.

Walker's spectacular to mark the reopening of Las Vegas' Sands Hotel in 1982 held what until last year was the Guinness-verified world record for a balloon release with more than 208,000 let loose in one sitting. He has consulted for or produced Presidents' inaugural celebrations, World's Fair ceremonies and football bowl-game half-time activities.

Radio City Music Hall Productions finally is turning the corner after an eight-year drive to return New York's famous entertainment center to profitability. The company posted net income last year of $2.5 million, its first profit in 30 years. The biggest loss--$9.4 million--came in 1980.

Since 1978, when the historic music hall building nearly was razed, the company began searching for ways to return it to profitability. Radio City's first try at rekindling life into the theater was with concerts by the Grateful Dead and a host of other rock and pop artists. Those concerts still fill a big part of the music hall's bill.

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