Majestic owner rumoured as front-runner in Marston’s pub acquisition

The new buyer of UK wine specialist Majestic Wine, Fortress Investment Group, is rumoured to be the front-runner to buy 150 pubs from Marston’s, which was put up for sale by its owner last month.

A view from behind an typical English pub bar

The Wolverhampton pub operator and brewer, which operates more than 1,545 managed, franchised and leased pubs nationwide, is looking to offload around 150 pubs in a bid to reduce net debt of £1.4 billion by around £200 million within the next four years.

According to The Times newspaper, Fortress Investment Group, which recently acquired Majestic for around £95million, is understood to be a frontrunner in the bid.

The sale is expected to raise an estimated £45 million for the pub group, which announced it would increase its disposals guidance for the current financial year from £40 million to £70 million as it published a trading update earlier this month (15 October). It forms part of the disposal of £80-£90 million of certain non-core assets the company announced.

Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said the principal focus was to reduce net debt and create a high quality business that is cash generative after dividends and capital expenditure.

“We are making encouraging progress and have decided to increase the pace of our disposal programme this year to accelerate the achievement of this target,” he said.

The move could be an interesting one for Fortress Investment Group, a New York investment firm that is owned by Japanese-owned SoftBank, as it could potentially provide a new route to market for the Majestic’s range or bolster its Commercial arm.

Speaking to db last week, Majestic’s new boss John Colley said the specialist retailer was “getting back to what we do well”, as it unveiled its newly revamped range of wines, focussing on classics and the return of popular wines that had been retired from the portfolio.

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