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Sun 28th Sep 2014 - Oakman partners Punch, Utopian goes through pre-pack
Oakman Inns to make £1.25m co-investment with Punch Taverns: Oakman Inns and Restaurants is to make a £1.25m co-investment in The White Hart in Ampthill, Bedfordshire with owner Punch Taverns. The White Hart is an 18th Century Grade Two Listed coaching inn in the centre of the town. Oakman Inns has agreed a new 25-year lease and it is expected that the premises will re-open in Spring 2015. Oakman chief executive Peter Borg-Neal said: “Ampthill is the kind of prosperous market town we want to trade in and The White Hart is the best building in the town. It has been a little unloved in recent years and we want to restore it to its former glory. We’re delighted to have agreed this deal with Punch Taverns – a deal that is based on a joint investment and a free-of-tie commercial lease. Punch is clearly a business in the process of reinventing itself and has demonstrated a willingness to take a more progressive approach to leasing. Both parties have made a serious financial commitment and this is a genuine alliance. We strongly believe that this deal will create huge value for both Oakman and Punch.” Julian Searle, Punch Taverns business development manager, said: “We are keen to develop business relationships with the very best operators and, in particular, those with strong covenants and who are prepared to make a significant capital investment alongside our own. Oakman clearly fit those criteria and we are confident that The White Hart will be a huge success.” The eighth Oakman Inn, The Beech House in St Albans, opened on 10 September. Oakman recently acquired The Kings Inn in Ongar and last week entered a joint venture with Downing Capital to purchase the freehold of The Cook and Fillet near Aylesbury. The White Hart will be the eleventh Oakman site when it opens next spring. Borg-Neal added: “It’s been a busy few weeks for us but, in reality, what appears to be a flurry of activity on the outside actually represents a serious of initiatives that we have been working on for quite some time. We have also agreed terms on a twelfth site and hope to exchange contracts shortly.”

Bob Senior says it’s ‘business as usual’ after Utopian pre-pack: Bob Senior, the former chief executive at Ultimate Leisure, has said it is “business as usual” after his Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based nightclub, restaurant and bar company Utopian Leisure Group went through a pre-pack administration. Of Utopian Leisure’s assets, Sam Jacks in Newcastle, Loveshack in Durham and Box in Belfast have been sold to a new company, Ulysses Leisure Ltd, while the two Fat Buddha outlets in Newcastle and Durham are now owned by Hot Buddha Ltd, with all 220 of Utopian Leisure’s employees transferring across to one of the two purchasers. Senior said some shareholders within the Utopian Leisure Group no longer wanted to be involved with the bars operated by the firm. As a result, administrators at Deloitte were appointed to handle the sale of the assets to two separate firms, both involving Senior, who said it was business as usual at all the venues and none of the 200-plus staff at the venues were at risk of redundancy. He told the local newspaper: “Hot Buddha Ltd was set up by me and other shareholders two years ago to set up Fat Buddha in Newcastle, at Swan House roundabout. We set it up because we fundamentally couldn’t borrow the money at the time, so we had to use our own funds and a friendly builder who waited until he could be paid. Hot Buddha has four shareholders out of the area and three in the area, including myself as managing director. Some shareholders of Utopian Leisure no longer wanted to be involved in the bars, and are only interested in restaurants, so a new business, Ulysses Leisure Ltd replaces Utopian Leisure Group to solely look after the bars. The other shareholders wanted to buy Fat Buddha in Durham, but they only want to be involved in restaurants, which is why we appointed Deloitte. They have come into a restaurant business and aren’t interested in anything else. Nothing changes at the units themselves.” Daniel Butters and Clare Boardman of Deloitte were appointed joint administrators of Utopian Leisure. Butters said: “We are pleased to have completed a sale of the trading entities of the Utopian Leisure Group. The structure of the transaction allows the trading subsidiaries and the licensed venues to operate as usual and all employees to be retained. The trading performance across the venues had been poor due to a number of venue specific issues combined with challenging market conditions. These include restrictions on discretionary consumer spend, new entrants into local market with ability to fund capital expenditure investment and capital expenditure requirement for some of the group’s existing units.”

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