Spirit Group, the managed house operator led by Karen Jones, has held talks with Tom Cobleigh to buy its managed house operation.
The demerged arm of Punch recently announced that it was looking for managed pub acquisitions and had a war-chest of £30m.
The company, which operates the Mr Q's, Two for One and Bar Room Bar concepts, is believed to be running the slide rule across the 90-strong concern.
It is understood that although only the tenanted arm of Tom Cobleigh - Nice Pub Company - has been publicly put up for sale, parent company Electra Partners Europe is preparing to exit the business entirely following disappointing returns during its two-year ownership.
The venture capitalist is thought to have approached a number of operators that would be interested in acquiring the chain, including Spirit Group.
The business was bought by Electra from the leisure group Rank in 2000 for £90m. At the time the new owner planned to double the estate.
The business is headed up by Bill McCosh, a former executive at both the Mansfield Brewery and Mill House Inns.
Tom Cobleigh has already put its tenanted arm Nice Pub Company up for sale. The 28-strong business attracted a record amount of interest, with 22 bids tabled.
Nice Pub Company is predominantly located in Yorkshire, but stretches down to the Midlands. The asking price has not been disclosed, but with so much interest, the successful bidder is likely to pay a very full price.
The company has so far denied that it is planning to sell its managed estate.
"The strategy going forward as far as Electra is concerned is to focus on the managed estate, hence the sale of Nice pubco," said Tom Cobleigh marketing director Kevin Hall.