Punch managers create new pub group

Two former Punch Taverns senior managers have established a new pub company after buying 25 sites from their former employer.

Duncan Ward and Andy Wilkinson formed The Clear Pub Company with Andrew Lawton Smith, a partner at law firm Wragge & Co.

Ward is the company’s managing director while Wilkinson is head of operations. Lawton Smith joins the board as investing non-executive chairman.

The trio used their own money to buy the pubs in a deal that also included funding provided by Allied Irish Bank.

The 25 outlets, which were bought for undisclosed terms, are located principally in the Midlands and the North, but with one site on London’s Tottenham Court Road. All the acquired pubs were former Punch/Spirit managed houses converted to leased businesses and have a combined turnover of some £14 million and employ 400 staff.

Clear Pub Co will operate the larger locations under the Cookhouse brand. Cookhouse will specialise in providing a value food service with quality and consistency. The remaining outlets will be unbranded and will have the look and feel of independent pub eateries offering locally-sourced, top quality food.

Lawton Smith told reporters that this is a great opportunity for the three directors. “Duncan and Andy are skilled and experienced individuals in the market and will be able to drive this business forward.”

The directors plan to grow the business to some 100 outlets in the next five years through targeted acquisitions.

Allied Irish Bank’s investment was co-ordinated by Sid Muir, a senior manager heading up the Birmingham office of its Corporate Business.

Muir said the bank decided to back the deal due to the trio’s sector knowledge and drive.

“We are delighted to fund the purchase of this pub group from Punch,” he added. “We looking forward seeing the exciting plans they have for the pubs unfold, and working in partnership with them to achieve their aspirations.”

Clear Pub Co was advised in the Midlands by Orbis Partners and Harvey Ingram. Allied Irish Bank was advised by Duncan Murray, a banking partner at law firm Needham & James.

Murray said the bank had to consider some interesting lending issues associated with the brewery and pub sector.

“Fortunately both ourselves and the bank have been involved in a number of substantial deals in the sector and we were able to respond positively and quickly to resolve those issues to enable the deal to complete,” he added.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.