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Theater big is red-faced

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On Broadway

MONEY, power, ego and real estate. They're engines of the theater industry, and they all have a role in a behind-the-scenes deal that's been hammered out between one of New York's richest families and the man who controls the third-largest real-estate chain on Broadway.

Last summer, as The Post first reported, Rocco Landesman was quietly looking to sell a 50 percent stake in his company, Jujamcyn Theaters, whose holdings include the St. James (longtime home of "The Producers"), the Eugene O'Neill and the Al Hirschfeld.

A diehard baseball fan, Landesman has always wanted to own a team and he set his sights on joining a group to buy the Cincinnati Reds, which were in play.

He first offered the stake in his company, valued at about $50 million, to the Broadway producer and San Francisco real estate heiress Carole Shorenstein Hays.

When she declined, Landesman moved on to Steve Roth, the billionaire New York real-estate magnate whose wife, Daryl, and son, Jordan, have tapped the vast family fortune to set themselves up as Broadway producers.

The plan, theater sources say, was for Roth to acquire the stake in Jujamcyn for his son, who would then learn the business at Landesman's elbow, one day running it himself.

Jordan would be put in charge of "new productions" for Jujamcyn.

This raised a few eyebrows on Broadway, since the kid's track record hasn't exactly been worthy of Hal Prince.

He produced the dinky "Donkey Show" off-Broadway and two multimillion-dollar flops - "The Rocky Horror Show" and (with his mother) "The Mambo Kings," which closed out of town last summer.

"If you were doing it on the merits, he might not be your first choice," a longtime Broadway producer says.

No matter.

Landesman, sources say, was interested in one thing: the Roths' money.

A person close to him says: "He was obsessed with buying the Reds." And he needed the $50 million to do it.

All seemed to go swimmingly for a while; an office at Jujamcyn right near Landesman's was even being renovated for Jordan.

But last week came a setback: Landesman's investment group's plan to

acquire the Reds fell apart.

He turned up at a meeting of theater executives last week and told them he was "depressed" over losing the baseball team, theater sources say.

Landesman did not return a call, or respond to an e-mail, for comment.

But people close to him say that since he no longer needs the money to buy the Reds, he was having second thoughts about selling 50 percent of Jujamcyn to the Roths.

Yesterday, sources said Jordan is going to join Jujamcyn in an executive position but the Roth family will not necessarily get a big stake in the company for the time being.

The deal means Landesman will still control Jujamcyn Theaters.

Had the Roths gotten a big piece of it, Landesman would have been in business with Steve Roth, one of the toughest and shrewdest real-estate developers in Manhattan.

As a person close to Landesman told me not long ago: "If there's a showdown between Rocco and Steve Roth, my money's on Steve Roth."

Jordan Roth is expected to move into his newly refurbished office next week.

Let's hope he doesn't try to resurrect "The Mambo Kings."

A prominent Broadway critic was chat ting with the bartenders at Joe Allen earlier this week.

The critic had just seen "The Odd Couple," starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

"I liked it," the critic said, loudly. "I even liked Matthew Broderick."

The color drained from the bartenders' faces.

"Ah, nice to see you, so long," one of them said before disappearing behind the bar.

"Goodnight," said the other bartender, ushering the critic out the door.

As the critic was getting the bum's rush, he looked down.

Sitting at a table with his back to the bar was Matthew Broderick, wincing.

Only at Joe Allen, folks, only at Joe Allen.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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