Earl invests in Punters

Robert Earl (above), the man behind the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, has emerged as an investor in Courtyard Leisure, owner of four bars and restaurants in the City of London, writes Nigel Cope.

Shares in Courtyard soared by 50 per cent to 19.75p on news that Mr Earl had acquired 900,000 shares, a 3.25 per cent stake.

Richard Capper, chairman, said Mr Earl would not play a part in the day- to-day running of the company but was welcomed as a shareholder. "We're very happy to have him along."

Mr Earl received a significant windfall last month when Whitbread acquired the Pelican group, which owns the Cafe Rouge chain, for pounds 133m. Mr Earl controlled a major stake in the company.

Mr Capper's vehicle, Lomand Investment Holdings, took control of Courtyard in June when it acquired a 29.9 per cent stake. Lomand operates the Drum & Monkey bar and bistro chain, which is modelled on City gentlemen's clubs with button-backed leather armchairs. "I think he [Mr Earl] liked what we'd done with the Drum & Monkey and so was interested to get involved," Mr Capper said.

Courtyard's four bars, which include Punters in Lime Street, were loss- making last year.