Buy-in goes through at Hoskins: City figure of 1980s leads takeover of brewery group

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The Independent Online
HOWARD Hodgson, a well-known City figure in the 1980s, has staged a management buy-in at Hoskins Brewery, the pub and brewery company beset by boardroom rows and shareholder unrest.

The deal took just a week to piece together and was brokered by an un-named City institution aware of his plans to buy into a quoted company.

'I had to come off holiday in France to do the deal,' said Mr Hodgson, who bowed out of the PFG Hodgson Kenyon International funeral business in 1991, with pounds 6m in his pocket.

For pounds 715,000, the new management is gaining control of a company sitting on pounds 850,000 of cash and a stated asset value of pounds 3.2m.

Mr Hodgson's management team includes James Roe, deputy chairman of Kleeneze, Shaun Dowling, former director of Guinness, and Bill Caldwell, a former partner at Price Waterhouse.

A finance director, who will also have to oversee the operations of future acquisitions, is being sought.

Meanwhile, Robert and Barrie Hoar, the brothers whom shareholders wanted to oust, have sold most of their 26 per cent stake and resigned their executive directorships.

The brothers will each receive pounds 50,000 compensation, and Barrie Hoar will remain a non-executive director 'for the time being', the company said.

Dissident shareholders, led by Richard Holman, have called off their action against the board. 'We are happy with the outcome, but we wished it had happened sooner,' Mr Holman said.

It is still unclear, however, whether Adam Page, the former chief of Midsummer Leisure who claims he had struck a deal with one of the Hoar brothers just over a week ago, will take any action.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday, although a spokesman for his company, Swithland Estates, said a statement would 'be made in due course'.

Hoskins shares, quoted on the USM, yesterday returned from a three-month suspension at 56p and closed at 76p.

The Hoar brothers, who will retain a 7 per cent stake, sold a total of 1.3 million shares at 55p each and yesterday exercised options over a further 42,000 each at 65p.

Mr Hodgson has bought 552,000 shares, equal to 9.6 per cent, while Mr Roe and Mr Dowling have bought 90,000 each.

A further 550,000 shares were placed with institutional clients of Peel Hunt, who have also become brokers to Hoskins.

Yesterday's share price rise largely reflected the City's expectations of acquisitions by Hoskins.

The company has shrunk considerably over the past year to four pubs and a brewery, which is operating at only one-quarter capacity. However, Mr Hodgson said: 'We are not inclined to go around buying pubs as a means of distributing product.'

Hoskins annually produces around 1,300 barrels of Beaumanor bitter, Old Nigel winter ale, Penns Ale and Churchill's Pride.

Other potential customers for its beers include the universities of Nottingham, Leicester and Loughborough.