Liberation Group merges with Cirrus Inns

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Merger news: Liberation CEO Jonathan Lawson
Merger news: Liberation CEO Jonathan Lawson

Related tags Finance Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Beer Cask ale Food Property

Liberation Group, the UK and Channel Islands brewer and pub operator has merged with Cirrus Inns – which runs 22 sites from south-west London across to the Cotswolds.

The combination creates a predominantly freehold estate of 137 pubs, made up of 79 managed and 58 tenanted sites, with an accommodation offering of more than 400 rooms.

Liberation Group said local food suppliers such as Walter Rose, Arthur David and Hobbs House will form the backbone of the food offer that will be rolled out into the new pubs alongside the drinks ranges from its partners and own breweries.

Liberation chief executive Jonathan Lawson will lead the combined group, with Alex “Langy” Langlands Pearse, the Cirrus Inns founder and CEO, joining Liberation Group’s board as a non-executive director.

At the same time, Liberation Group has also agreed new, long-term banking facilities with three of its existing lenders, HSBC, Santander and NatWest.

Superb business

Lawson said: “Liberation Group, Cirrus and our respective majority shareholders share a very similar view of pubs and the unique role they play in our communities.

“Langy and his team have built a superb business that we are incredibly proud to welcome into Liberation Group. This move is consistent with our strategy of focusing on freehold premium food led pubs with rooms and provides us with further volume growth for our highly successful and award-winning beers such as Butcombe Original, Liberation IPA and our brand-new Tall Tales Pale Ale.

“I would like to thank Liberation Group’s majority shareholder, Caledonia Investments for their support with this transaction.”

Langlands Pearse added: “I have watched the development of Liberation Group over the past few years and, along with our major shareholder, the Heineken family, feel confident in the ability of its team to take the business forward.

“We are reassured that in Caledonia, we have found investors with the similar level of family values, ambition and long-term approach to build something unique and I look forward to joining the board.”

Strong position

Commenting on trading this year, Lawson said: “Liberation Group has come out of the pandemic in a strong position and despite the obvious headwinds for our customers, we are on course to deliver a strong year’s performance in both the Channel Islands and the UK.

“We have obviously seen significant pressure on our cost base but we have worked hard with our suppliers to find solutions wherever possible and have balanced pricing decisions with initiatives to deliver value to our customers. As a result, we have seen a stable gross margin performance in our Pubs and Drinks business, with both showing progress v 2019”.

Liberation said its managed UK like-for-like sales growth for the 10 months to 26 Nov 2022 was up 28.3% v the same period in 2019 while its UK Brewery OBV (on balance volume) growth for the same 10 months was up 12.6% against the same period in 2019.

The group said it will now focus on delivering a successful Christmas for its teams and customers before commencing the integration of Cirrus Inns in the new year, which will be led by Jayson Perfect, group managing director Pubs & Inns.  

Graeme Smith and Craig Rachel of AlixPartners advised on the transaction.

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