Award-winning pub group Mill House Inns has been sold to a new venture headed by two directors of Ambishus Pub Company.
Philip Snook and Mike Mills have acquired the national 53-strong chain for £57.6million and plan to make further deals, including a takeover of Ambishus.
The deal has led to the departure of Bob Williams and Chris Parratt, who founded Mill House five years ago, and operations director Simon Longbottom. Their company was set up with the venture capital backing of ABN Amro, which has been expected to seek an exit through a sell-off for some time.
With its family-friendly, food pub concept, it won the title of Pub Estate of the Year in the 2000 Publican Awards and Multiple Operator of the Year in the 1998 awards.
Snook and Mills are in talks to buy Ambishus, of which they are non-executive directors, because they want to take it off the Stock Exchange and make it private.
Their new venture, set up under the name of Jodsal, is backed by the private equity arm of US investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc (DLJ).
Snook said: "As experienced pub owners and operators, we are looking forward to bringing a fresh approach to the Mill House estate, which contains some magnificent sites with good upside potential.
"We have some very exciting ideas for the estate, and with our partners at DLJ, we have the resources to invest in the growth of the businesses as well as to look out for the many acquisition opportunities now coming out of the industry."
Snook said that, if the bid for Ambishus were successful, it would be run separately from Mill House, which continues to be run from its Buckinghamshire headquarters.
Ambishus has 63 managed houses, operated through formats such as Bertie Belchers, Rhythm & Hops, Warehouse and Smith & Jones.
Snook was managing director of The Magic Pub Company until its sale to Greene King four years ago. Previously he was retail managing director of JA Devenish and established Countryside Inns & Hotels.
Mills was a co-founder in 1985 of Grosvenor Inns, where he was finance director, and left five years ago. He began his career in senior positions at Carlsberg and Chef & Brewer.