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Sat 12th Sep 2020 - Sir Terence Conran dies aged 88, Gusto launches CVA, Wasabi focuses on future
Sir Terence Conran dies aged 88: Designer, retailer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran has died aged 88. His family, who described him as a “visionary”, said he had “passed away peacefully today at his Barton Court home”. A statement released by the Design Museum, which Conran founded, said: “A proud patriot, Sir Terence promoted the best of British design, culture and the arts around the world and at the heart of everything he did was a very simple belief that good design improves the quality of people’s lives. From the late 1940s to the present day, his energy and creativity thrived in his shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, and through his many design, architecture and furniture-making businesses.” Born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1931, Conran began his career making and selling furniture in London. He went on to open restaurants across the capital before launching Habitat in 1964, with his third wife, Caroline Herbert. The store grew into a national and international chain known for selling household goods and furniture in contemporary designs. He received a knighthood in 1983 for services to design. His first restaurant, The Soup Kitchen, opened in London in 1953 and he went on to open many more, including the London-based Pont de la Tour, Bibendum and Quaglino’s. By 2006, he had 50 restaurants and had founded Conran Restaurants but, declaring he was no longer getting “personal pleasure” from running them, sold the business. The company became D&D London following a management buyout in 2006 led by Des Gunewardena and David Loewi. He subsequently founded Prescott & Conran with Peter Prescott, which included The Albion concept. Last year, Conran launched contemporary British restaurant and bar, Wilder in Shoreditch, east London, with Richard McLellan, former chef at the Typing Room and Michelin-starred Alyn Williams’ restaurant in Mayfair. His sister, Priscilla Carluccio, helped to start the Carluccio’s restaurant chain with her chef ex-husband Antonio Carluccio.
 
Gusto launches CVA process: Italian casual dining group Gusto, which has been backed by Palatine Private Equity since 2014, has become the latest sector business to launch a company voluntary agreement (CVA) process, Propel has learned. Propel revealed at the end of July the 18-strong company was working with restructuring advisory firm RSM on an accelerated sales process. A spokesperson for Gusto told Propel: “The covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our business, like many others in the hospitality sector. Following extensive consultation with advisers, it is clear a CVA offers the best solution for all of our stakeholders and would secure the future of the business.” It is thought that the process may lead to the Matt Snell-led company, which employs 750 staff, agreeing new rental terms on the majority of its estate, but could lead to the closure of just a handful of its restaurants. The company estate is a mixture of suburban and city centre locations, and is spread across the north west, Midlands, north east, Yorkshire and Scotland. It includes sites in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. For the year to 31 March 2019, turnover climbed from £32.2m to £32.35m, while Ebitda was maintained at £3.2m. Pre-tax losses at the group narrowed from £2.4m to £2.06m, while operating losses narrowed from £759,000 to £11,000. Earlier this year, the company appointed Frank Bandura, former chief financial officer at Carluccio’s and Gaucho, as interim chief financial officer. Palatine backed a management buyout of then nine-strong Gusto in 2014. Three years later, it secured a £9m funding package from Santander to aid expansion plans.
 
Wasabi looks to the future after CVA is approved: Wasabi, the sushi and bento chain led by Henry Birts and backed by Capdesia, has told Propel it is looking forward to getting the business back on its feet after creditors approved its company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal earlier this week. The company said it was “extremely appreciative of the strong support and vote of confidence” it received from its landlords and suppliers, which has now “paved the way to refocus the team on moving the brand forward and setting it up for success in the future, albeit in a continuing challenging environment”. The company launched its CVA process last month, which was expected to lead to a handful of the group’s 51 sites in the UK, including 42 in London, close. The business has so far reopened 31 of its sites over the past two months. Founded in 2003 and employing more than 1,500 staff, Wasabi is heavily reliant on office workers and tourists. In launching the CVA process, the company said, with the likelihood of future trading continuing to be adversely affected by ongoing social distancing measures, the gradual return to the workplace of office workers in London and the reduction in tourism, it was undertaking a financial and operational restructuring programme that would see additional investment from the company’s investors, conditional on the approval of a CVA. Propel understands Wasabi, which was looking to move towards a variable, turnover-based rent system, had decided to embark on the CVA after discussions with a number of landlords hit a stumbling block. The “handful” of sites that will close are thought to comprise mainly of leases that were due to expire in the short term or considered to be loss-making and not viable in the long term. Birts told Propel last month he was looking to keep the number of redundancies to a minimum. Propel revealed in July that Wasabi had appointed KPMG to explore a full range of strategic options, which included seeking potential new investment partners or a purchaser for the business alongside raising funds from existing investors.

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