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Mon 5th Feb 2018 - Private equity firm buys majority stake in Simmons Bars operator
Private equity firm buys majority stake in Simmons Bars operator: Lonsdale Capital Partners, the private equity firm focused on the lower mid-market, has acquired a majority stake in Nightlight Leisure, which trades under the name Simmons Bars. Lonsdale’s investment includes a growth capital facility to help fund the further roll-out of Simmons sites. OakNorth provided Lonsdale with the finance to fund the acquisition. The Simmons group began as a single bar in King’s Cross in 2012. Today, it has 12 bars across central London offering a variety of cocktails, beer, wine and spirits, and is forecast to generate revenues of about £10m for the year ending 31 March 2018. Appealing primarily to 18 to 27-year-old young professionals and students, Simmons is known for its extended happy hours, good value and house party atmosphere. Simmons is led by 30-year-old entrepreneur Nick Campbell, who started working with the business in 2012. Nick has over ten years’ experience running bars and nightclubs. He began working in the sector whilst at university, running a series of student venues, and later managed several sites across London, including the Proud2 nightclub situated in the O2, Greenwich. He was introduced to the business after moving into a flat above the first Simmons site in King’s Cross. He identified an opportunity to improve the concept and worked without salary to turn the bar around in return for a 50% equity stake; after six months of rapidly improving sales Campbell bought out the co-owner, acquired a second site in Camden and continued the subsequent journey of expansion throughout central London. With Lonsdale’s support, the company intends to continue adding further sites across London, with the aim of expanding to more than 30 bars in the short to medium term. Lonsdale’s David Gasparro and James Knott will join the board of Simmons. Roy Ellis will join as chairman upon completion. Ellis has a wealth of experience in the multi-site leisure sector, notably he previously founded and led the Revolution bar chain which he listed in 2000. His experiences in growing similar businesses across the UK will be of huge value to Simmons and will help the business achieve the next phase of growth. This is the fifth principal investment for Lonsdale since closing its first institutional fund at £110m in April 2016. In addition, the fund has backed six bolt-on acquisitions and partially exited superyacht painting, supply and maintenance company GYG via an AIM listing in 2017. Knott said: “Simmons is the go-to bar chain to kick off a fun night in London. It has a relaxed party vibe, centred around its extended happy hour, and a look and feel that sets it apart from other chains. In Nick Campbell we are backing a very driven and experienced entrepreneur. We will build out the team and the infrastructure around him to help continue the roll-out of the concept, initially in central London but ultimately looking outside the capital. We are very much looking forward to being part of the Simmons journey.” Campbell, founder and chief executive of Nightlight Leisure said: “To this day Simmons has been solely funded by the income generated by the bars so the investment from Lonsdale is not only a major milestone for the business, but an exciting step towards the ambitious plans we have for the future. Our goal is to triple the number of Simmons bars in London and to begin our expansion into other UK cities within the next three years. We are looking forward to working with Lonsdale and believe it will offer a great platform to support the growth and development of the Simmons group.”

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