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Sun 30th Jan 2022 - Richard Caring enters fight for control of Corbin & King
Richard Caring enters fight for control of Corbin & King: Serial sector investor Richard Caring is in talks over a possible acquisition of Corbin & King, the London-based restaurant group behind the Wolseley in Piccadilly. Corbin & King went into administration last week after a falling out between its management team, led by co-founder Jeremy King, and its majority shareholder, the Thai hotel giant Minor International. King has accused Minor of trying to “seize control of the company” and said it was “under siege”. King wants to buy back his company with finance from an American investment fund, Knighthead Capital, which has offered to repay £38m of loans provided by Minor during the pandemic. However, the Sunday Times reports that Minor and administrators from the restructuring firm FRP Advisory are said to have received 35 to 40 expressions of interest. An early frontrunner is Caring, who is understood to have been contacted by Minor prior to the administration. Minor is said to view Caring as one of the few people who could deal with Corbin & King’s landlords, including the Russian-born Belgian oligarch Vladimir Zemtsov, who has been in dispute with the company over rent payments for the Wolseley. One of Caring’s representatives met Minor late last week and Caring himself is expected to speak to the Thai investor early this week. The tycoon is understood to be interested in adding trophy London sites such as the Wolseley, as well as its other restaurants such as the Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel and Fischer’s. However, he is said to be wary about the level of emotion swirling around Corbin & King’s administration and the war of words developing between King and Minor. One source close to the situation suggested that Caring could try to keep King involved in some capacity. But another source said King was unlikely to accept, adding pointedly: “There’s a difference between a restaurateur and a restaurant owner. Restaurant owners run businesses from the boardroom and restaurateurs run them from the restaurant floor.” Caring is understood to think the restaurants could be run more ambitiously and could make more money. That has never been the founders’ main goal: King is said to have fallen out with Minor over the Thai investor’s desire to franchise the Wolseley in Saudi Arabia. King is said to be “phlegmatic”. A sector source said: “Even if it is taken away from him, he will start again.”

Caring lines up Brighton and Cardiff openings for Ivy Asia: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has lined up further openings for his Ivy Asia brand later this year in Brighton and Cardiff. The brand, which will open in Guildford in March, will open in Brighton’s Ship Street, next door to the existing Ivy in the Lanes site, this summer. It will also open a site in Cardiff, close to its existing The Ivy site in the city at the St Davids scheme. It plans to open an Ivy Asia site on the former Princess Garden site in London’s Mayfair, but has so far not secured planning permission. It has also submitted plans to open an Ivy Asia in Leeds, on the former French Connection store in the city, and is exploring an opening in Glasgow. Earlier this month, Propel revealed that Caring had appointed Jean-Baptiste Requien, formerly of D&D London and Big Easy Restaurants, as chief operating officer of Ivy Asia. Requien has spent the past four years as director of operations at D&D London and previously worked at Big Easy Restaurants and Park Chinois.

JD Wetherspoon in talks to acquire former Fridays site in Covent Garden: JD Wetherspoon is in talks to acquire the former TGI Fridays site in London’s Covent Garden, Propel understands. Last September, Hostmore, the parent company of Fridays, closed the TGI Friday’s site in Bedford Street permanently. The site became the second ever UK opening for the brand in 1987 after its debut a year before, in Birmingham. Earlier this month, the business began stripping the site, increasing speculation that a new occupier was imminent. Last October, Propel revealed that JD Wetherspoon and Albert’s Schloss-operator Mission Mars were believed to be two of the parties interested in taking on the site. It now hears that the latter ended its interest last year, but that the former is in advanced talks to take over the unit. JD Wetherspoon declined to comment. Earlier this month, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin revealed his company lost £250m over the past two years due to covid and is putting the roll out of 18 new pubs on hold. Last April, Wetherspoon announced plans for new sites in Kings Norton, Newport Pagnell, Shawlands, Edinburgh, Felixstowe, Heswall, Sheffield, Leeds, Bishopston, Hamilton, Diss, Bourne, Grays, Ely and Crystal Palace, plus Dublin, Limerick and Galway in Ireland. But Martin today told Sky News that the recent losses have given him cause to “pause” and “reconsider”. 

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