LGV buys Tragus for more than £90m

by tb , Tuesday 18th January 2005 17:16

 
New Tragus boss Graham Turner
Legal & General Ventures (LGV) has bought mid-market restaurant operator Tragus for a sum understood to be between £90m and £95m.

The private equity company plans to boost the high street presence of Tragus, which owns 157 UK sites, including 80 Café Rouge and 63 Bella Italia restaurants.

Brian Phillips, managing director of LGV, said: “The plan is to open 12 new restaurants a year for five years. We will focus on our two core brands, shading slightly towards Café Rouge.”

The new chief executive of Tragus is Graham Turner. He said: “It’s important not to grow too fast. Café Rouge could potentially expand to over 200 sites but we've seen many other businesses in this sector growing too quickly.”

Turner was previously in charge of Unique Pub Company, which was itself bought out by LGV for £1.9b in March 2002.

LGV managing director Brian Phillips said: “We successfully backed Graham Turner in the Unique Pub Company buyout. That was the aperitif. Tragus is the main course.”

The move is part of LGV’s ongoing interest in the leisure sector. Phillips added: “Although this is our first move into casual dining, we have invested a lot in the leisure industry. We believe the restaurant sector is ripe for consolidation.”

LGV's other investments include Vue cinemas, Moliflor casinos, healthclub group Total Fitness and golf and country club operator Clubhaus.

Tragus was set up in 2002 to buy the Café Rouge and Bella Italia brands from Whitbread as part of a £25m deal for the Pelican and BrightReasons restaurant groups.

It employs 3,800 people and also owns the Mamma Amalfi, Abbaye, Amalfi, Leadenhall Wine and Tapas Bar and Oriel brands.

by Tom Bill

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