A-Z founders beat off rivals to seal £7m deal

17 December 2004 by
A-Z founders beat off rivals to seal £7m deal

The race for A-Z Restaurants appeared to be finally over this week after founding members Claudio Pulze and Franco Zanellato signed on the dotted line for £7m.

In one of the most intriguing restaurant deals of the year, Zanellato, Pulze and an unnamed third partner beat counterbids from Hush owner Jamie Barber and partners, and a third separate offer from Pulze and Marlon Abela.

L'Oranger in St James's Street is one of the seven restaurants in the deal
Pulze originally launched a bid in partnership with Café Med owner Simon Binder, but Binder said he dropped out when "it all got a bit expensive". After Binder's withdrawal, Pulze joined forces with restaurant magnate Abela but the deal was beaten by a higher offer from Zanellato. Pulze then joined Zanellato's bid in the final hour, although he said previous discussions had taken place. "We had talked a few weeks ago but had different ideas about how we saw the deal progressing," said Pulze. "At the end of the day I wanted a piece of the action." The group of seven restaurants will be kept together for the immediate future, although subsequent changes haven't been ruled out. Industry sources predict Pulze, who admitted he originally wanted to bid for only the two Memories of China restaurants in Victoria and Kensington, may push to sell off some individual properties. While contracts for the acquisition exchanged last Friday (10 December), failed bidders are understood to be on standby until completion, which is expected in about three months' time. Restaurant insiders said management supported the sale. Barber, who did not bid with his partner in Steamroller Restaurants, Geoffrey Moore, declined to comment. Industry insiders said that despite losing out on A-Z, Barber and his new backers were still in the market for further properties to expand the Hush brand. Administrator BDO Stoy Hayward took control of A-Z Restaurants after bankers pulled the plug on funding last month. Some 29 offers for the group of restaurants, either as a whole or in parts, were received by the first deadline of 18 November, with second-round negotiations starting at the beginning of December. The seven London restaurants in the deal are Aubergine in Fulham; Zafferano in Knightsbridge; L'Oranger in St James's Street; Alloro in Mayfair; Spiga in Soho, and Memories of China in Victoria and Kensington. Pulze also opened his new Italian restaurant Fior‚ this week on the site of Marcus Wareing's former Fleur in St James's, London. BDO declined to comment as Caterer was going to press. *Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 16 December 2004*
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