CK Noble – a wholly owned subsidiary of CK Asset Holdings (CKA) – said it had reached agreement with the Greene King board for a cash offer.
A Greene King spokesperson said the two businesses already had a relationship with CKA because it already owns a number of freeholds of the pubco’s sites.
The spokesperson added the company had made reassurances saying it would continue to maintain the Greene King name and its existing support centres in Bury and Burton, and planned to invest in the business.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) national chairman Nik Antona outlined his concerns and called for the new owners to safeguard the jobs of those working at Greene King.
He said: “The news Britain’s largest pub and brewery company has been sold to an international asset company is very concerning for our beer scene.
“We are always wary of one company controlling a large share of the market, which is seldom beneficial for consumers.
“Greene King has been in operation for more than 200 years and it is a very sad day to see such a well-known, historic and respected name exit the brewing and pub business.
“We hope Greene King will continue its operations as normal without any disappointing changes. We will be calling on the new owners to retain the current pub portfolio to safeguard thousands of pubs and jobs across the country.”
Society of Independent Brewers chief executive James Calder said: “Many small independent brewers have beer on the bars in Greene King pubs.
“We hope yesterday’s announcement won’t impact on the choice both landlords and consumers have when picking a local beer. We look forward to working with Greene King’s new owners to ensure these pubs continue to have access to the widest choice and quality of beer possible that can only come from small independent brewers.”
Comments on The Morning Advertiser’s Facebook page included one user calling it a “terribly sad day for the industry. Before we know it, brewing side will be divested and rest will be asset stripped”.
John Mitchell said: “Another pub company in financial difficulty. £1.9bn in debt. Just like Enterprise Inns was by a figure of around £2bn.
“Still serves them right to be honest. In some places they have too many pubs in one area. I guess the shareholders should be done away with and the business slimmed down a bit by selling off a selection of their pubs.”
However, JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin was more optimistic about the deal and what this would mean for the pub sector.
The Mirror reported Martin said while many pubs have been run by private equity businesses and have struggled, the Li family have a good reputation and will be good for the trade.