A look back at Fuller's mergers and acquisitions

By Nikkie Thatcher contact

- Last updated on GMT

Company history: Fuller's has made a number of deals in its history
Company history: Fuller's has made a number of deals in its history

Related tags: Fullers, Beer, Pubco + head office, Managed pubs, Tenanted + leased

Brewer and operator Fuller’s has a long history for its pub and brewing business and The Morning Advertiser has taken a deep dive into the company’s merger and acquisition deals.

Throughout its history, the company has built an estate that now stands at about 400 sites with almost half tenanted and half managed.

A landmark purchase over the past few decades was in 1990, when Fuller’s bought 44 sites from Ind Coope – the pub division of Allied Breweries.

Some 15 years later in 2005, rival family brewer Gales Brewery in Horndean, Hampshire was bought, along with 111 pubs for £91.8m.

Moving to more recent times, in February 2018, Fuller’s acquired West Sussex-based Dark Star Brewing for an undisclosed sum​. The deal, which saw Fuller’s take a 100% stake in the business, will give Dark Star access to the funds to invest in new markets and increase sales of its beer brands, which include Hophead, APA, Dark Star Original and Revelation.

It was believed that Fuller’s saw strong potential for Dark Star brands, particularly Hophead, both nationally and internationally.

At the time, then The Fuller’s Beer Company managing director Simon Dodd said: “Following on from the success we have had with our acquisition of Cornish Orchards, we have been looking at similar opportunities to invest in and work with young, exciting companies that have a similar ethos and commitment to quality as Fuller’s. Following discussions with James [Cuthbertson] and the team at Dark Star, we could see that we could add real benefit to the Dark Star business and it provides a great new range of delicious cask beers that will enhance the Fuller’s portfolio.”

Just three months later (May), Fuller’s agreed to acquire four sites from London-based wine bar operator We Are Bar Group​.

Busy year

The sale followed a strategic review of the former Kornicis business. The four sites were: Jamies in Creechurch Lane EC3, Jamies in Fleet Place EC4, Jamies in London Bridge Street, SE1 and The Saint in Paternoster Square EC4.

We Are Bar Group boss Ian Banks led a management buy-in of the then-17-strong business with Richard Stringer in 2015. The company was re-named We Are Bar after opening the eponymous site in Bishopsgate in 2016. Following the sale to Fuller’s it was be left with eight sites.

The year was a busy time for the group as the following month (June), while releasing its financial results for the 52 weeks ending 31 March 2018, Fuller’s announced it had acquired Bel & The Dragon​. The deal included six sites across Surrey and Berkshire, which joined Fuller’s portfolio.

At the time, Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny said of the Bel & The Dragon deal and the We Are Bar acquisition: “The four sites we have acquired from We Are Bar Group are good, well-located additions to our City business and the six Bel & The Dragon sites are a perfect fit with our existing quality estate. They offer delicious, fresh food, an interesting and premium drinks portfolio and 57 bedrooms – all areas where we have expertise.”

Back on the beer side of the company, in early 2019 (January), Fuller’s agreed to sell its brewing business to Asahi for £250m​.

The then proposed deal included Fuller's cider, soft drinks, wine wholesaling and distribution business, as well as its beer and brewing operations.

This meant Fuller's historic Griffin brewery and its Cornish Orchards, Dark Star and Nectar Imports brands also moved to Asahi's ownership. Asahi, under the deal, acted as Fuller's key supplier to the London-based operator's pubs and hotels.

Later in 2019 (October), the group acquired a collection of pub and hotel sites in the Cotswolds in a £40m deal​.

Enhance existing portfolio

The acquisition of Cotswold Inns & Hotels, included seven freehold country inns and hotels alongside eight staff cottages.

The chain also agreed to purchase two leasehold bars in the centre of Birmingham. It said the acquisition was be funded from existing banking facilities.

Emeny said the portfolio of inns would complement its existing estate of pubs with rooms.

He added: “The inns and hotels being acquired are all iconic, character properties in sought-after locations in the Cotswolds. 

“They will further enhance our existing portfolio of premium hotel accommodation, adding 201 stylish bedrooms.

“A number of the sites have further development potential and Cotswold Inns & Hotels benefits from an established function business, spanning both leisure and corporate custom as well as weddings. 

“We expect to realise further benefits from bringing the properties into Fuller’s and for the acquisition to be earnings-accretive in the first year. 

“Quintessentially English and renowned for a focus on fresh food, premium accommodation and an exceptional level of customer service, this collection of seven iconic country hotels is highly complementary with our existing strategy.”

Cotswold Inns & Hotels was founded in 1997 by operators Michael and Pamela Horton and its estate included an eighth hotel – The Broadway Hotel, Worcestershire – which was retained by the current owners.

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