Tom Cobleigh in fresh uncertainty over being sold by Rank

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Related tags: Tom cobleigh, Public house

Pub group Tom Cobleigh faces a new wave of speculation that it is about to be sold by parent company Rank.Investment bank Dresdner Kleinworth Benson...

Pub group Tom Cobleigh faces a new wave of speculation that it is about to be sold by parent company Rank.

Investment bank Dresdner Kleinworth Benson is believed to have been appointed to look into marketing the estate.

The 100-strong group went through an unsettling summer last year when Rank first considered disposal.

The leisure group consulted various licensed property experts and financial institutions through Schroders over a possible price but decided to hold on to the pubs.

According to a report in The Times, last year's highest offer was £130m but Rank may now have to settle for a lower price.

Nobody at Rank or Tom Cobleigh was able to comment last week.

Rank has undergone a major shake-up since chief executive Mike Smith was appointed a year ago to restore the group's fortunes.

Rank has raised about £500m by disposing of other businesses, including its bars and nightclubs and the Odeon cinema chain.

It bought Tom Cobleigh four years ago for £114m, when it had only 44 outlets, which was criticised by some as too high a price.

The estate is now made up of 85 managed houses, operating under the Tom Cobleigh format, and 23 non-core tenancies.

Possible buyers include Mark McQuater, who was managing director of Tom Cobleigh until December 1998 before leaving for Greenalls Pubs & Restaurants.

He is believed to be looking to re-enter the industry by making a major acquisition with venture capital backing.

Other operators which are believed to have shown an interest in Tom Cobleigh include SFI Group and Bass Leisure Retail.

Changes in marketing and the launch of a new menu helped to push up profits and sales for Tom Cobleigh last year.

This turnaround has been headed by Rufus Hall, who took over the helm a year ago from Barry Pickersgill.

In February, Smith indicated more disposals could be coming, with the Hard Rock Café seen as the most likely victim.

Smith said: "Over the next few months we intend to narrow further the focus of the group."

In December, Hall told thePublcian.com that Tom Cobleigh was now an established part of the Rank business.

"What Tom Cobleigh needs is stability," he said. "In 2000 we will have a stable business, no changes at the top and the best people."

Related topics: Other operators

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