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Sun 9th Jun 2013 - Grand Union to treble in size after Johnson investment
Grand Union plans to treble in size after Luke Johnson investment: Sector investor Luke Johnson has taken a 50% stake in London bar operator Grand Union Group, the company founded and headed by Adam Marshall, who now thinks the company is well-placed to grow its seven-strong estate to at least 20 sites. Johnson, who becomes chairman of the company, has taken the stake in a private capacity rather than through Risk Capital Partners, the private equity firm he heads - Johnson also holds a private stake in Draft House, the pub operator headed by Charlie McVeigh. Marshall has not sold any of his shares in the business, suggesting Johnson has bought-out an investor. Grand Union opened its first site in 2006 and trades in Brixton, Islington and Paddington among other places. The company has five tied and two free-of-tie sites - three of its tied sites produce between £300,000 and £450,000 Ebitda per annum. Grand Union’s most recent opening was Grand Union, Paddington and Marshall reported last year that it is performing very well with around £25,000 to £28,000 per week of net takings and annualised site Ebitda of £260,000. Grand Union’s last reported Ebitda, pre-central overheads, was £1.4m. Marshall said: “We are very excited to welcome Luke on board as an investor and advisor. I believe his experience will help us grow the business to at least 20 sites in the near to medium future across London’s villages.” Johnson said: “We have provided the resources that Adam and his team need to grow their brand. He has successfully restructured the business in the last 18 months and is now poised to expand once more.” Grand Union offers a selection of innovative and classic cocktails, premium spirits, wines and champagne, all served surrounded by an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage decor. Every branch opens until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights with customers dancing to DJ’s. They also sell sharing plates, great burgers, pizza, ribs, wings and salads, all freshly made on site. Johnson is also understood to be in talks over taking a stake in Red Hot World Buffet and looking at other investments in the sector. Last week, Johnson forecast a mini-boom in merger and acquisition activity as deferred deals reach the market. He said: “Merger and acquisition activity has been subdued for a long time. Many probably believe these low volumes are the new normal. But there are thousands of transactions that have been deferred over the past five years as disposals and retirements were put off until profits and prices revived. Those elements are steadily being restored, so I predict an M&A mini-boom in the next couple of years. What is my particular justification for this bullish view? I am busier with prospective deals than I have been for some years. It seems that buyers and sellers are feeling the moment has come to act. Of course, many acquisitions will collapse. But quite a few will surely proceed. The general rise in confidence tells me better times lie ahead for business.” Earlier this year, Johnson sold Giraffe to Tesco for £48.6m. He told the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers conference that he had sold businesses too early in the past – and the eventual Giraffe sale, nine years after he invested in the business, had produced an 8x return on his original investment. He told delegates: “You want to run your winners. I’ve made mistakes in selling too early. Wait until (a buyer) comes knocking and you’ll probably get a better price.” Johnson revealed that he never discussed exit strategy when he invested in a business because it is ‘insulting’ to the current owner - the fundamental question is around the quality of the business. On an eventual sale, he said: “If it is working, you will be spoilt for (buyer) choice.”


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