Mercury Inns director Mark Butler reports an "unbelievable response" to the launch of a new corporate recovery company, Mercury Liquid.
The new venture is aimed at banks, receivers and others who want to hire professional management to run distressed assets. But Butler says that the company has also heard from a couple of pub companies keen to re-open pubs.
"They're trying to look at re-opening pubs where they don't have a managed division. Some pubs need to be sold for alternative use. But there are pubs that have a fighting chance of being good retail businesses, especially when the smoking ban and credit crunch is a few years behind us.
"These are often pubs in good locations — their offer just needs to develop.
"Traditionally, pubcos have not wanted to pay a management fee to keep pubs open. But there is a tipping point on the cost of closed pubs and they're waking up to the fact that paying a fee is a cheaper option."
Butler says he believes that the company can run up to 150 units without over-stretching. Mercury Inns is one of the UK's most highly-regarded multiple retailers, running freeholds and pubs on lease from Charles Wells and Greene King.
The company has also run a large number of sites on behalf of receivers in the past, including Soho and Clubs and Bars, It is currently running an unnamed London bar group on behalf of Kroll. Mercury Inns was also a finalist in two categories of the Morning Advertiser 100 Awards for managed multiples this year.