Corbin & King sell majority stake in restaurant empire

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have sold a majority share in their restaurant group, which includes The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel, to a Bangkok-based hotelier.

Chris Corbin (left) and Jeremy King have sold a majority stake in their restaurant empire

As reported by Sky News, Minor Hotels, which runs 150 sites around the world, has bought a majority stake in the Corbin & King group.

The deal, announced on the Thai stock exchange on Monday, is one of the highest profile sales in the London restaurant industry since Nick Jones and Richard Caring sold 60% of The Soho House Group to American investor Ron Burkle in 2012.

Sky News reports that longtime friends and business partners Corbin and King are valued at £60 million and will stay on as minority shareholders in the company of which King is currently chief executive.

The Wolseley

Minor Hotels is buying the majority of its stake in the company from Graphite Capital, which invested £21m in Corbin & King back in 2012.

The timing of the deal is interesting, as many restaurateurs have reported some of the most difficult trading conditions of their careers, with rising rents, rising costs of imported ingredients and staff shortages all adding salt to the wound.

King has been outspoken about Brexit and the multitude of challenges it presents for the London hospitality industry.

Corbin and King first went into business in 1981 when they bought Le Caprice in St James’s, having first met in the ‘70s when Corbin was manager of Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair and the 6’4’’ King was maître d’ at American restaurant Joe Allen in Covent Garden.

Their acquisition of Le Caprice propelled the restaurant to fame, turning it into a star-studded hangout frequented by the likes of Harold Pinter and Jeffrey Archer.

They followed up with The Ivy in 1990, imbuing it with an all-important sprinkling of stardust that led the restaurant to be packed to the rafters with celebrities, from models to rock royalty.

In 1998 they worked their magic on fish restaurant J Sheekey, restoring the historic Covent Garden site to its former glory. The same year they sold Caprice Holdings to Signature Restaurants. The company is now owned by billionaire businessman Richard Caring.

In 2003 they opened London’s first successful grand café – The Wolseley – in a Grade II listed vintage car showroom-turned-bank on Piccadilly.

Inspired by the grand cafés of Paris and Vienna, the Wolseley’s all-day dining approach broke the mould and it soon became a favourite haunt of London’s intelligentsia. Artist Lucien Freud was such a regular he was given his own table.

In keeping with their grand café model, the pair expanded their empire with Viennese café The Delaunay in Covent Garden in 2011; the hugely successful Art Deco-themed Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly in 2012; French fancy Colbert in Sloane Square the same year; the mittel-European Fischer’s in Marylebone in 2014; and the Alsatian-inspired Bellanger in Islington in 2015.

The pair also opened their first Art Deco hotel – The Beaumont – in Mayfair in 2014, which boasts 100-seater brasserie the Colony Grill Room and an American Bar.

Click here for a full profile on Corbin & King’s colourful restaurant empire.

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