There has been a high level of interest in bidding for stricken bar and nightclub business Premium Bars and Restaurants (PBR) with at least half a dozen parties looking to buy the business or parts of it.
The potential bidders are understood to be a mix of existing trade companies and individuals backed by private equity.
Bidders are understood to include Alan Rankin, the entrepreneur who was chairman of Ultimate Leisure, the company that evolved into PBR.
Ladhar Leisure, the north-east bar and lap-dance company, which employs former PBR finance director Craig Bell as its own finance director, is thought to have bid — its plan is thought to involve closing PBR's Hale headquarters and centralising its functions at its own headquarters in the north-east.
PBR chief operating officer Kevin Allcock is understood to be leading a management buy-out backed by majority shareholders, the Reuben brothers.
Entrepreneur Tim Bacon is thought to be bidding for Living Room, the brand that he founded and sold to PBR.
Former chief executive Mark Jones is thought to have bid for the whole company.
There is also understood to be an unnamed bidder who has bid for the Bel & Dragon pub restaurant brand.
One source said: "There is a degree of disquiet about the process given the board being controlled by the Reubens and the fact that they had bid — the Reubens are effectively vetting bid candidates yet bidding themselves.
"Key issues that have emerged during the bidding process are the drop-off in performance of Living Room since Christmas and the level of debt the bank will leave in place."
The bidding process was launched by PBR's banks in an attempt to recoup their
£45m debts. BDO Stoy Hayward will now assess offers and invite selected groups to table more detailed bids before identifying a preferred bidder.
PBR's banks hope to be in exclusive negotiations within a few weeks. The company currently produces company ebitda of about £5m against annual interest charges of between £3m and £3.5m — the banks may yet be inclined to take control of the business and wait for asset values and multiples to recover.
Alternative options include the Reuben brothers — PBR's largest shareholders — putting more money into the business in exchange for a larger shareholding. They currently own about 32% of the shares.