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Thu 25th Sep 2014 - Exclusive: Oakman Inns and Downing launch JV
Oakman Inns and Downing unveil joint venture: Award-winning Oakman Inns and Restaurants and EIS investment fund Downing have unveiled a joint venture Downoak Limited, to buy the freehold of the Cook and Fillet near Aylesbury. The site will be immediately closed, refurbished and then re-launched as a fully-fledged Oakman Inns site in November. Steven Kenee, head of licensed leisure at Downing, said: “I am delighted to welcome Oakman Inns to the Downing family. Oakman’s reputation in the market is second only to the quality of the team and strength of offer behind it. Whilst Oakman recognise the significant value uplift freehold sites can deliver, they are trying to grow their business and tying up huge amounts of capital in freehold sites is, therefore, unattractive. A partnership with Downing, however, allows their capital to go much further than would be possible with traditional bank debt whilst allowing them to retain the vast majority of the freehold capital uplift. It is hoped that this will be the first of many such acquisitions.” Oakman chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “We know this site very well having previously run it under a management contract. It is already trading well and with the planned increase to trading area and other improvements we are very confident of our prospects. We are keen to acquire more freeholds but we already have enormous amounts of cash tied up in them. By having Downing as a supportive partner we can move forward with increased certainty.” The eighth fully developed Oakman Inn, The Beech House in St Albans, opened on 10 September and achieved net sales of £40,000 in its first full week. Oakman recently acquired The Kings Inn in Ongar. The site will open in November but with its historical moniker – The Kings Head – restored after a public consultation. Oakman remain in negotiation on a further two sites and are hopeful of having twelve fully developed sites. The existing Oakman estate for the twenty-three weeks ending 2 September saw like-for-like sales grow by 13.5%. Borg-Neal added: “There continues to be a sense of steady progress across our business right now. Having built a great platform we’re delighted to have secured an exciting pipeline of new sites.” Oakman began running The Cook and Fillet, Kingswood, Buckinghamshire in February 2013. The management contract deal involved Borg-Neal reuniting with the former chairman and managing director of Grand Metropolitan Estates Bob Williams who was also his boss at Mill House Inns in the 1990s. The Cook and Fillet was formerly named The Crooked Billet and was developed at a cost of £650,000 with design by Concorde BGW. The Cook and Fillet combines a destination, edge of town eatery with a farm shop specialising in locally sourced produce.


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