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Fri 3rd Jul 2020 - Exclusive: TowerBrook takes lead in race to acquire Azzurri Group
Exclusive – TowerBrook takes lead in race to acquire Azzurri Group: Private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, which has offices in London and New York, is believed to have taken the lead in the process to acquire Azzurri Group, Propel has learned. TowerBrook is believed to have gone ahead of Epiris, the private equity firm that formerly backed TGI Friday’s and Parkdean Resorts, in the running for the Stephen Holmes-led business. It is not as yet thought to be in exclusive talks, although that situation might change during the next few days. The sales process for the Zizzi and ASK Italian operator is thought to have generated significant interest, with bids due last week. TowerBrook was thought to have previously shown an interest in the business in 2014, when it was subsequently acquired by current backer Bridgepoint for £250m. KPMG has been advising the Azzurri Group on its options and began inviting offers for the business at the beginning of June. A sale of the business was understood to be only one of the options Bridgepoint is considering for the future of the company. It is thought any successful bidder for the business, which also operates the central London-based Coco Di Mama brand, would need to make an initial circa £35m investment to provide the group with further liquidity to get through the lock-down and reopening period. Like the majority of the sector, the company had already suspended payments to landlords and is using the furlough scheme to pay most of its staff. However, like some private equity-backed companies it has yet to discover whether it will be eligible for a business interruption loan. It is thought one option that was being considered is trimming both its ASK Italian and Zizzi estates, while a company voluntary arrangement process has not been ruled out. The company is currently working on plans for a phased reopening of its restaurants. Bridgepoint and Azzurri Group both declined to comment when Propel contacted them.

Deep Blue to reopen five Harry Ramsden sites for dine-in: Deep Blue Restaurants, owner of the Deep Blue and Harry Ramsden brands, is to reopen five Harry Ramsden sites for dine-in tomorrow (Saturday, 4 July). The restaurants in Bournemouth, Brighton, Blackpool, Eastbourne and Swanage will feature a host of new measures including an order and pay solution. Chief operations officer David Ellison said: “There is a clear need to reduce the number of touch points for customers and team members and this system ticks all those boxes.” Safety screens have been installed where tables are closer than 1.5 metres apart and the company has appointed customer safety supervisors, who will focus on ensuring covid-19 measures are adhered to while answering customers’ questions. Deep Blue restaurants founder and chief executive James Low said: “We have made a significant investment to go above and beyond what’s required but it’s worth it because our customers will be able to dine with us with confidence.”

Emilia’s Crafted Pasta to open both sites for dine-in: London-based Italian restaurant Emilia’s Crafted Pasta is reopening both its sites for dine-in tomorrow (Saturday, 4 July). The company, which was founded by Andrew Macleod, operates sites in Aldgate and St Katharine Docks. Its full menu will be available while measures have been put in place to ensure customer and staff safety including removing seating to ensure one-metre distancing; rigorous cleaning before, during and after service; daily staff health checks and hand sanitiser. The St Katharine Docks site will be open from midday to 9.30pm, Sunday to Thursday, and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The Aldgate restaurant will open from 5pm and 9.30pm, Monday to Thursday; midday to 10pm on Fridays; 12.30pm to 10pm on Saturdays and 12.30pm to 9.30pm on Sundays. Weekday lunchtime hours will resume at Aldgate once the City starts reopening. Emilia’s will continue to offer takeaway as well as delivery through Deliveroo.

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