Spirit Group shareholder denies rift with management

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Related tags: Private equity, Public house, Spirit

One of Spirit Group's main venture capital backers has moved to play down reports that the managed pub business is at odds with investors over is...

One of Spirit Group's main venture capital backers has moved to play down reports that the managed pub business is at odds with investors over is future.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Spirit chief executive Karen Jones (pictured​) had held what were described as "fraught" discussions with the group's backers in recent weeks.

Venture capital groups Blackstone, Texas Pacific, CVC Capital and the private equity Merrill Lynch all hold stakes in Spirit, as does the company management led by Ms Jones.

Following a spate of deals in the pub market, Spirit's backers were said to have been pressing for a break-up of the 2,000-strong group, which includes pub brands such as Rat & Parrot, Chef & Brewer and Hog's Head.

However, Stephen Peel of Texas Pacific insisted there was no conflict. He said: "Spirit, its management and its key shareholders are totally aligned on all of our options."

Spirit asked Merrill Lynch to look at options for the group in July, following talks with Punch Taverns about a possible £3bn takeover. Spirit started life as the managed pub arm of Punch, and was demerged in 2002. It has been working to integrate the 1,400 pub Scottish & Newcastle Retail business acquired at the end of 2003.

Spirit's backers have already seen the coffers increased by two deals last year. Robert Tchenguiz's Globe Pub Company bought 364 pubs for £345m, and the Premier Lodge budget hotel business acquired from S&N was sold on to Whitbread for £2.5bn.

A spokeman said Spirit was not commenting specifically on the reports of a rift between Ms Jones and Spirit's backers, but insisted the company "is not under any pressure to do anything - it's still less than two years since the S&N deal."

He confirmed that a sale of a further package of high street pubs remains a possibility, but said no deal is imminent. He added: "There are people out there who would like to see Spirit broken up so they could cherry-pick sites, and you have to question the source of some of these rumours."

Related topics: Greene King

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